AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Atlanta court urges "extreme caution" about new web app that promises to cut traffic fines

The Atlanta Municipal Court is warning ticketed drivers to exercise "extreme caution" before using a new web-based app that promises it can get its customers lower fines on their traffic citations.

A new Florida-based company called "TIKD" is advertising a service that claims it can reduce what its customers will pay for a ticket by sending an attorney to court to challenge citations.

"The Municipal Court has been made aware of a user complaint where the TIKD-assigned attorney did not appear, and the citation holder was required to pay for their citation, in addition to the fee paid to TIKD," the Atlanta Municipal Court said in a warning issued late Monday. "Neither TIKD nor any similar entity can guarantee 'a reduced' fee for any traffic ticket. The Atlanta Municipal Court is not bound by any agreement a defendant may have with TIKD or any similar entity."

The Atlanta court also said that the company advertises that its customers do not have to appear in court.

"However, this places citation holders at risk of incurring a Failure to Appear penalty if neither the attorney nor the citation holder is present on the assigned court date," the court said. "A Failure to Appear penalty can result in additional fees to the citation holder, a bench warrant and potential suspension of driving privileges."

Chris Riley, founder and CEO of TIKD, told the AJC on Tuesday that the statement from the Atlanta court contained information that is "fundamentally inaccurate" and demonstrates that the court "doesn't understand our service."

Riley said the company does not guarantee that people who are cited will have their fine reduced in court. He said the company guarantees that its customers will always pay TIKD less than the fine amount they would face if they paid the ticket off in advance, without going to court. The company's business model relies on challenging traffic tickets, Riley said. In some cases, the company will get a ticket completely dismissed, while in other cases the company will have to pay more for the ticket than the customer paid the company.

TIKD says its business model relies on "economies of scale and the law of large numbers."

Riley also said the court's statement also implies that the company is saying no one has to show up for the court date. "Of course that is not correct," Riley said. The service sends an attorney to court on behalf of the customers, Riley said. Under very rare circumstances, he said, the customer would have to attend court, too.

Riley acknowledged that one of the attorneys hired to represent a TIKD customer in Atlanta had a scheduling mix-up and did not appear at the right time. But he said the matter was immediately addressed and resolved favorably for the customer.  He said that it appears to TIKD that "the court took this one scheduling snafu and read our web site and became alarmed and fired off a press release" before understanding how the company operates.

In its promotional materials, TIKD bills itself as an "industry-changing" app that "guarantees that drivers who use the service will always pay less than the fine amount."

Riley said the Atlanta court has not responded to the company's attempts to explain the way it works. "It's a new way of dealing with things," he said. "I get that the court might be confused by it."

But he said his Miami-based company was a national start-up that is growing quickly and has carefully thought through its business model.

TIKD launched in Florida in February and came to Atlanta this summer.

The new company is appearing on the scene at a time when traffic tickets are more costly than ever and many drivers can't afford fines for minor traffic offenses. The Atlanta Municipal Court routinely uses misdemeanor probation supervision as a system to allow drivers to pay off costly traffic fines over time, which adds to the overall cost of a ticket since drivers must also pay a probation supervision fee.

The Atlanta court urged customers of the new company to make sure they have the representation they are paying for if they opt to use the new service.

"The Municipal Court strongly recommends any individual considering TIKD or similar services to be in constant contact with the attorney assigned to their citation or citations," the Atlanta court said in its news release. "The court recommends users ensure that either they or their attorney are present at court on the assigned date. Failure to do so can result in additional penalties to the citation holder, a suspended driver’s license and the issuance of a bench warrant for arrest for failing to appear in court."

Reader Comments ...

About the Author

Carrie Teegardin is on the investigative team. She is a graduate of Duke University and has won numerous national journalism awards.