Municipal judge Lynn French, town attorney Jim Brown and undersheriff Mark Taylor spoke at the Crawford Town Council meeting on Nov. 6. The council was learning more about the benefits and disadvantages of establishing a municipal court.
Lynn French was asked what a typical fine would be. French said a parking ticket could be $15 or $25, a speeding ticket is $163 including court costs. Fines go higher for multiple offenses.
James Sorensen asked if having court every other month would violate a person's right to due process. French said it would not.
Undersheriff Mark Taylor explained that if they enforced the municipal code in Crawford, the town could have municipal speeding tickets.
French said a municipal judge decides if someone is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. "You have a lot of laws that can be enforced if you want to — dogs, noise, vandalism, nuisance type things," French said.
Brown prepared an ordinance and a letter about the town appointing its own town marshal or police chief or entering into an intergovernmental agreement with the Delta County Sheriff's Office. He pointed out the sheriff's office may not want to handle all of the town's code, but currently handles disturbances. Now disturbances are adjudicated by the county court. They could be handled by the town's municipal court.
Brown also explained about having a court of record and that someone on town staff could be appointed as town marshal or police officer. He recommended they consider a certified law enforcement officer.
Jackie Savage, town clerk, asked if dog and nuisance offenders could be sent a letter, such as the town does to those who need to trim their weeds. When the town mows the weeds, the owner is charged a fee. Could that practice be applied to other code offenders? Brown said the town, under the ordinance, has the authority to mow the weeds and make the assessment. But if the ordinance states that a criminal fine will be rendered for not mowing weeds then it could be done in municipal court.
Brown stated that a defendant in municipal court does not have the right to counsel.
French added that as long as the penalty is less than a year in jail and less than $1,000 you don't have to provide counsel. He said normally defendants don't take the time to find counsel. French makes certain the defendant understands that the town will not pay for their counsel.
Taylor explained that if the town had a marshal or police officer and they provided criminal enforcement, they would have to be a certified law enforcement officer. A code enforcement officer has to be certified.
Taylor said that if someone calls about a barking dog, that would be under community policing not enforcement.
The cost of having the town having it's own officer or an intergovernmental agreement with the Sheriff's Office was discussed. Mayor Susie Steckel said Crawford is not the richest town and will do only what it can afford.
Another public comment was that the town needs to establish requirements for dog tags, collars and licenses.
It was discussed if people in town should talk to their neighbors who have barking dogs instead of calling for law enforcement to come out.
Brown said behavior is changed by punishment and the town would have that with a municipal court. French said he doesn't see people more than twice in the Hotchkiss municipal court. It does change behavior.
The public hearing closed with a promise of another work session on the subject.blog comments powered by Disqus