A bite and a benefit?CGPD proposes issuing administrative fines, a ‘warning with a bite,’ that won’t go on driving records
By: Jon Avise, South Washington County Bulletin
Cottage Grove police officers may have another tool to punish low-level moving violations this fall — and it’s one that may benefit drivers, too.
Discussions of issuing fines instead of traditional traffic citations for minor traffic stops are ongoing in the department, officials said, and public safety director Craig Woolery said he might formally propose the plan to the city council this fall.
Administrative citations are valuable to both public safety and motorists, Woolery said. Fines would give officers “something between writing a warning and writing a citation,” he said.
And drivers, who could receive the administrative fine for minor offenses like speeding in residential areas, loud mufflers or some stop sign violations, would pay a less expensive penalty — $60 as opposed to more than $100 for a traditional traffic ticket. The administrative citation would not appear on the driver’s record or affect auto insurance costs.
“This would really fit the bill as a warning with a bite,” Woolery said.
The city would pocket two-thirds of the $60 fine, which would be credited to the general fund. (Half the city’s share must be used for law enforcement purposes.)
The remaining one-third would be deposited in the state general fund.
That, Woolery said, is a significantly higher portion of the fine that would be directed back toward the city. Cottage Grove Police issued 7,073 traffic citations and warnings in 2008 — Woolery said the city receives just $30 to $35 of the typical fine.
Woolery conservatively estimated last week the city would issue roughly 625 administrative citations per year, amounting to $25,000 per year.
But, city administrator Ryan Schroeder said, the city does not view administrative fines as a revenue source.
“It is a revenue source,” Woolery said, “but it’s not a moneymaker.”
If Cottage Grove police adopt the fine system it would not be the first time the city has used administrative citations.
Already, Schroeder said, the city issues administrative fines for things like dangerous dogs, property or nuisance violations.
“It’s not necessarily a new thing,” he said. The new development, Schroeder said, is that cities now have specific authority to issue the fines for minor traffic violations.
The city would have to provide a neutral third-party hearing process to allow a driver to contest the citation. Woolery told city council members in a workshop last week that other cities have said the appeal process is not frequently used.
The administrative hearing costs could be a deterrent, but Woolery said he sees real value in the fines.
“A lot of times, these would be a perfect tool to have some corrective behavior and each party goes on their way,” he said.