Can off duty police officers issue traffic citations?


Harrisburg, Pa. (WHTM)- Heather Badillo, Harrisburg, reached out to the abc27 Investigators after she received a traffic citation in the mail and was hit with a hefty fine.

“I think it was unfair and uncalled for,” said Badillo.

Badillo says she was driving down State Street in Harrisburg, back in January, when she tried to go around a car that was double parked and accidentally cut off another driver.

“When I got over the SUV that sped up behind me went around the left side of me and then came back in front of me cutting me off pushing me back into the right lane. I looked at them like what the heck. We continued on State Street and we approached a red light close to 22 and Locust Lane where he pulled up right beside me. He stared me down and I looked over and made a gesture and he kind of {pointed at me}and we parted ways,” said Badillo.

Badillo says a week later she received a citation in the mail for careless driving. She pleaded not guilty and went to court. She says that’s when she found out the driver of the other car was an off duty Harrisburg Police officer, who filed the citation against her. She made her case to the judge, but she lost and was fined $500, although her original citation indicated the fine was $25.00.

Traffic citation issued to Badillo

“I had a clean driving record and now have three points on my license because of ill timing. I am also upset about the amount of money I had to pay,” said Badillo.

abc27 investigates went to work to find out if it is legal for an off duty police officer to issue a traffic citation.

“Yes, they are permitted to do that,” said Ed Spreha, attorney.

Spreha lectures for the Minor Judiciary Education Board and helps educate district judges across Pennsylvania on the motor vehicle code. He says while off duty officers can issue tickets in the jurisdiction where they work, it can raise concerns.

“The biggest concern, obviously in this case, is going to be the public perception and perception of the person because she’s feeling she may have gotten a raw deal based on the circumstances,” said Spreah.

Abc27 spoke to some attorneys who suggested a best practice would be to call an on duty police officer to make a traffic stop and issue the citation.

“That might not be a bad idea,” said Spreha. “Then at least we know there was some sort of review that took place.”

Having an on duty officer make a traffic stop is not required by law or by the Harrisburg Police Department.

“The Harrisburg Bureau of Police strive to maintain the public safety of citizens and visitors to the Capitol city through enforcement of local, state, and federal laws. Bureau Officers that are off-duty and observe an egregious traffic offense within the City of Harrisburg have the authority to cite the driver of the vehicle once positively identified. As indicated, this practice is generally limited to the most egregious of offenses,” said Corporal Kyle Gautsch, Harrisburg Bureau of Police.

Abc27 Investigates did find a mistake was made with the fine that was issued to Badillo.

Under the vehicle code there are three different types of careless driving: general, unintentional death, and and serious bodily injury.

A $500 dollar fine is typically given for unintentional death. Under the vehicle code for careless driving there is no fee designated.

“The vehicle code says that if it doesn’t say, the fine is just a flat fine of $25 dollars,” said Spreah.

As abc27 was investigating this story Badillo’s fine was corrected to $25 and she received a refund from the judge for $475.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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