Who wouldn’t like the convenience of an app to deal with a traffic ticket? Traffic-ticket lawyers, that’s who.
They call the app unfair competition, saying the business of contesting traffic citations must be handled by licensed pros. But consumer advocates said the ticket firms are just mad the app threatens to take a cut of their profits. This traffic-ticket turf war has escalated to the Florida Supreme Court. Justices set arguments for March 4 to help them decide whether the app should be allowed or shut down.
It all started after a Coral Gables, Fla., firm called TIKD launched an app and website three years ago. Motorists in Miami-Dade, Broward and other counties were invited to “spend two minutes or less” taking a photo of the ticket, uploading it and paying a fee based on the fine amount. “Get on with other things while TIKD hires a qualified attorney on your behalf to challenge your ticket,” the website explained.
It wasn’t long before Florida traffic-ticket giant the Ticket Clinic filed an “unlicensed practice of law” complaint with the Florida Bar, charging that TIKD’s founder isn’t a lawyer. The bar then petitioned the state’s highest court in early 2018, arguing the app advertised its traffic-ticket defense as the “equivalent of or a substitute for the services of an attorney.”
Lawyers representing TIKD fired back that its founder, Christopher Riley, “is not, and has never claimed to be, an attorney.” The company said it stays out of the courtroom, paying licensed lawyers to help TIKD’s customers. “Deploying innovative technology, TIKD provides a consumer-oriented solution to a common problem: resolving traffic tickets,” wrote Christopher Kise, TIKD’s lawyer.
Earlier this year, TIKD scored a victory when Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Mary Pooler rejected the Florida Bar’s arguments since TIKD does not tout itself as a legal-services provider. For now, however, it appears that TIKD isn’t up and running. Lawyers for the company and its founder did not respond to calls for comment.
The legal fight will continue, though, with public interest groups weighing in on both sides.