What is our stance on questions looking for data sets pertaining to legal matters? Are they on-topic or off-topic?


I am having a difficult time finding the average number of speeding citations/tickets issued per day, per state. How would one go about obtaining this crime data? It seems like it would be very easy to gather and publish.

The National Motorists Association says source:

Traffic tickets are a multi-billion industry. They have virtually nothing to do with highway safety, but they have everything to do with money.

No one knows how many traffic tickets are actually issued. Many local units of government deliberately hide this information so they don’t have to split their traffic ticket revenue with the state.

I know that US government would not support or tolerate agencies deliberately hiding this information. Where do I get it?

4 Answers 4


First, I would delete "The National Motorists Association says [...] deliberately hiding this information" as suggested here.

Then, this question can either be interpreted as:

  • asking for the data, or
  • asking about the legal process that one would use to get the data

I don't think this site has established whether the first interpretation is on-topic.

I think the second interpretation is on-topic based on this site's history (and I think it should be).

  • Thanks. Good point regarding the two interpretations. "I don't think this site has established whether the first interpretation is on-topic." --> Should I ask a second meta question? Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 23:16
  • 1
    "I don't think this site has established whether the first interpretation is on-topic" -> I'd think the answers here will get to that. I just personally didn't have an opinion.
    – K-C
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 23:22

I would say that the first question (paraphrase by K-C) is on the margins of law and sociology or something like it. There is a law-like presupposition which is false in the US, but might be true in a country with a single national police force. As such, I think it's worth addressing the false presupposition. More generally, though, questions about "data" could be on-topic since they are evidence as to what the "actual" law is (since law isn't just about what the statutes say, it's also about how the words are interpreted). Questions about conviction rates, come to mind as the more directly relevant numeric questions.


My first thought on this question -- "opendata". In fact, it appears that the first comment already makes a reference to a related question on opendata.

Personally, I don't think there's much harm in a single question like that. I don't think we should jump around and close each question just because we may have nothing to say on the matter at the time (reminds me of Snowden's explanation about privacy and "nothing to say" free speech comparison).

As a proud holder of a multitude of the revival badges on many sites in the SE network, I can certainly attest that sometimes it just takes time for an expert to come by and provide a great answer.

  • ("I can certainly attest that sometimes it just takes time for an expert to come by and provide a great answer." -> that is the reason why I think it makes no sense that unanswered questions are automatically deleted.) Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 0:15
  • @FranckDernoncourt, I think they're only automatically deleted if they have negative votes or other negative marks attached to them (which is still a dumb and anti-social idea, especially with the speed that some question get closed on some sites in the network)
    – cnst
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 0:51
  • Even with no negative votes or other negative marks attached to them, questions will get deleted if they haven't attracted enough view (fewer than than visit per day) and comments (fewer than 2 comments) Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 1:03
  • @FranckDernoncourt, didn't know that; i guess it's even worse than i thought...
    – cnst
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 2:13
  • @FranckDernoncourt, btw, thanks for bringing attention to this question; i've decided to actually provide my own answer, too. :-)
    – cnst
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 2:14

Questions that ask for a list of insert-category-here do not typically fare well in the Stack Exchange model, since they are invariably broad and invite speculation on what counts as part of the category. A number of communities make them off-topic by policy or by consensus for this reason.

Asking for a list also doesn't help many in the future. On the other hand, asking for how one could find lists of that type, from that source, during that time, or some combination are generally appealing and helpful.

I am in favour of closing questions that can be summarised as "give me this specific thing now". Those that do - or can be edited to - ask for how or where to get things like it, with say, this one as an example, should be kept open and the changes made as appropriate.

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