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Wednesday, June 19 Local

Connecticut courts expand online ticket dispute program

STAMFORD — For the past several months, Richard Colangelo has brought the courtroom into his home.

The Stamford state’s attorney has been negotiating deals from his home computer as part of a pilot program to settle traffic tickets online.

“I’m very reasonable,” Colangelo said. “If they came to court, they would get an offer from us. I’m not treating anybody differently because they are doing this online. I’m looking at it and saying, ‘If they were here, what would I offer them?’”

The three-month pilot program will soon be expanded to the judicial districts of Bridgeport, Middletown and Litchfield. Starting June 8, anyone receiving an infraction in the 45 communities those districts serve can fight the tickets without going to court.

Stacey Manware, deputy director of Superior Court Operations, said the success of the Stamford pilot program has encouraged the Central Infractions Bureau to expand the program, which could be offered in every court by the start of next year. The program is already up and running in the Meriden Judicial District, where it began in March.

Manware said for several years the state has offered the option to pay or plead online, but this is the first time those receiving infraction tickets for minor offenses have been able to mount a defense online and have the charges or fines reduced or dismissed by a keystroke.

In the Stamford-Norwalk Judicial District, which includes Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, Norwalk, Westport, Weston, New Canaan and Wilton, Colangelo has been making proposals on tickets since February.

There have been an average of 2,240 infraction tickets written each month this year in the eight communities. The minor offenses include speeding, stop-sign violations, distracted driving, unsafe backing and other offenses where the levy of a fine is the only punishment. People receiving summonses for more serious charges still have to go to court.

Since the program began in the Stamford-Norwalk Judicial District, 506 people who pleaded not guilty online were invited to participate in the program. Most of them — 346 — agreed to participate. Of those, 316 accepted Colangelo’s offer. The remaining 30 were either transferred to the courthouse or the defendant rejected the offer and took the case to court.

From his computer, Colangelo said he could view the driver’s traffic ticket and license history and the officer’s writeup for the infraction. He said those drivers making their defense could scan documents to prove their points, such as insurance documentation if they were pulled over without an insurance card in the car.

”We are trying to make it easier on people,” Colangelo said. “Realistically, if you could do this online, it makes it easier on them, it cuts down on the traffic in court, which is probably the biggest thing. So, that allows me not to assign multiple prosecutors to the infraction docket. With the limited resources we have, it makes it more efficient.”

John Nickerson|Police and court reporter