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Confusion over little-known court program that paid traffic tickets

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BATON ROUGE - About a dozen drivers cited for infractions donated blood in exchange for paying a ticket they were issued. After WBRZ asked how the court program worked, it was abruptly put on hold.

Tuesday, court administrators said those who participated had to enter a guilty plea. Instead of paying, they were able to donate a pint of blood.

"The people who were doing this pled guilty to a traffic ticket and had a fine to pay," District Attorney Hillar Moore said. "If they didn't have a fine to pay they could work off the money by doing community service work...and a pint of blood was equal to 'x' amount of community service work."

District Judge Don Johnson who handles traffic cases told WBRZ, he alerted the court about ten days ago about the program. Court leaders said the tickets could appear on driving records.

As blood supplies for sickle cell patients in Baton Rouge dwindled, Lorri Burgess started looking for creative ways to increase the blood bank.

"We submitted letters to the judges," Burgess said. "Basically we did get approval through the 19th JDC."

This summer, the Sickle Cell Association of South Louisiana worked out a deal that most drivers who get caught speeding would like to get. In exchange for a pint of blood, tickets would be settled instead of having to pay the ticket.

"We're copying an idea out of Houston," Burgess said. "MD Anderson has a program where the judges will give community service hours for those individuals that will donate blood."

Drivers who donate blood are filed as having done enough community service hours to pay-off their ticket. A handful of drivers took advantage of this program. 

"Well, yeah we've had some people," Burgess said.

The program is not the only one of its kind. However, as of Monday, the program was on hold due to logistics, according to a court administrator. 

Now, Burgess and the others at the Sickle Cell Association are putting the pedal to the metal to find other ways to stock the blood bank on their behalf. 

"You could save a life," Burgess said. "Who wouldn't want to save a life if you could?"


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