Get a traffic ticket in New Jersey and the next thing you receive may be a letter from a lawyer offering his or her services. Lawyers are trolling traffic records and sending solicitation letters to ticketed drivers, and now state legislators have introduced a bill that would criminalize the practice, according to a report today from NorthJersey.com. Meanwhile, some police chiefs are taking matters into their own hands, blacking out large portions of accident reports. State Sen. Joseph Vitale says the practice is “ambulance chasing by another name” and “degrades the profession.”
Two problems with these responses, of course. One is that the First Amendment protects lawyers in sending out these letters. The other is that these traffic reports are public records open to lawyers and anyone else, and the police have no right to redact them. Even when it comes to traffic-ticket trolling, taste can’t trump the law.