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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

October 17, 2012 at 2:00 PM

Seattle lawyer launches online “ticket buster”

A Seattle lawyer is offering a new online service to help people fight traffic tickets.

Steve Hemmat is taking advantage of an option for challenging tickets with a written statement, a move that doesn’t require a court appearance.

To expedite the process, Hemmat created a website called eTicketbuster.com where people can upload their traffic tickets, pay a deposit and have Hemmat’s firm prepare and submit their written appeal.

eticketbuster.jpg

eTicketbuster charges a $6.50 processing fee and keeps half of whatever savings result from the appeal. If there are no savings, there’s no charge beyond the $6.50.

Similar online ticket services are offered in California but Hemmat isn’t aware of any in Washington. If the business takes off he may expand to other states where it’s allowed.

There’s a potentially big market just in Washington, he said. More than 2,600 tickets are written every day in the state, generating more than $140 million in fines last year alone.

“What we offer is an easy, accessible way for people to use the Internet [and] get limited assistance through an attorney office,” he said, adding that this “may very well be the wave of the future for the court system itself.”

Hemmat is a sole practitioner with two legal assistants. He believes he can review at least 10 to 20 tickets per day with the online system “without much impairment to my regular practice.”

The first challenge developing the site was figuring out where the appeal procedure would work in the state. Hemmat said the approach is possible in all jurisdictions except Wahkiakum County.

The second challenge was finding affordable talent to build the site. Local firms said the job would cost between $140,000 and $500,000 so he found programmers in Europe who built the site for “significantly less than that.”

“We would have preferred to have used local talent,” he said, “but it seems like local talent here is getting plenty of business and for a very good price.”

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