Council passes first reading of municipal infractions

The Fairfield City Council approved Monday the first reading of a pair of ordinances to amend city code and allow police to give municipal infractions.

If passed, the police could issue motorists in violation of the law (or in violation of other city ordinances) an alternative fine that is both lower than what they?d pay on a normal state fine and one that does not go on their driving record. The Fairfield Police Department has asked for the power to issue these municipal infractions as a middle ground between a warning and a much larger state fine. State fines tack on additional charges such as a 35 percent surcharge and $60 in court costs. That means a $40 speeding ticket really costs the offender $114.

One advantage Fairfield Police Chief David Thomas has spoken about during previous meetings is that the money generated from tickets will go to the city?s general fund and not to the state. Lt. Colin Smith said during a committee meeting that the state keeps 90-95 percent of the fine and sends the remainder to the entity that generated the ticket. If an officer issues a municipal infraction, on the other hand, all the money stays in the city.

Councilor Michael Halley said the wording of the ordinance was changed between its initial proposal a few weeks ago and when the council voted on it Monday. The original text said municipal infractions would be a minimum of $50, but that language was removed. There will be no minimum, but rather a maximum of $1,000.

Thomas said the police will still have discretion over whether to issue a warning, a municipal infraction or a state fine. The size of the fines for municipal infractions will mirror state fines, minus the 35 percent surcharge and court costs.

One of the two ordinances the council voted on says municipal infractions cannot be issued for certain violations such as driving under suspension, reckless driving, drag racing or any that are alcohol-related. Municipal infractions cannot be given to people who have an unpaid penalty from a previous infraction, or to someone who has already received two such infractions in the past 12 months.