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Commissioner suggests administrative citations for new revenue

Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne is putting the brakes on a suggestion for deputies to issue administrative citations for speeding in lieu of a formal traffic ticket.

He's worried the practice may not be legal.

The suggestion came up last week out of the blue at the regular meeting of the county commission. Commissioner Don Carlson inquired if it was possible.

Newly appointed Sheriff Frank Homer said he wasn't sure, but noted there has been interest lately at professional organizations he attends.

"There is some discussion around the state right now" about it, Homer said.

Carlson reasoned the cash-impaired county could derive a new revenue source if officers were able to ticket speeding motorists, instead of forking the fine money over to the state.

"I would need more information on it to determine the legality of it," Dearstyne said. "There's an Attorney General's opinion that they're not legal if a state statute controls. If the administrative penalty circumvents that," they're not allowed. He said the state appears to have pre-empted a county's ability to collect such fines, but said he knows Roseau County is doing it. He's asked how.

Other governmental bodies such as environmental agencies do have the authority to issue citations for non-compliance, Dearstyne said, but he doubts that authority extends to law enforcement agencies.

"If they're thinking about it, I would suggest they put the money into an account because the state may be coming after it," he cautioned.

Carlson said he proposed the penalties because "I'm not convinced the state will send stimulus money to the counties."

The discussion of speeding fines came up earlier at the meeting when the board refused to allow a $5 increase in petty misdemeanor fines to offset deficits in the county's law library.

"I'm not totally in favor of it," said commissioner Dick Devine, a retired State Patrol officer. "I think the fines for speeding are outrageous. It's just ridiculous when a minor speeding violation costs you $120 to $130. The state's jacked up its fees 100 percent."