Council votes to craft municipal infraction ordinance

The Fairfield City Council voted Monday to draft an ordinance giving the police power to issue municipal infractions.

A municipal infraction is a ticket that costs the offender less than a state ticket, the money from it stays with the city, and the ticket doesn?t go on the offender?s driving record.

The council?s public safety and transportation committee discussed the matter Thursday, and voted 2-0 to bring it to the council. At Monday?s meeting, councilor Paul Gandy asked if municipal infractions would mean less money for state agencies.

Councilor Michael Halley, who along with councilor Katy Anderson, voted to bring the matter before the full council, said it probably would mean less money would go to the state. However, he didn?t see that as a downside, because he said the state has cut funding for cities for many years.

?I do appreciate that you?re worried about the state?s budget, though,? Halley told Gandy.

Gandy also asked if the police would issue tickets instead of warnings if the council gave officers the power to write municipal infractions. Lt. Colin Smith said the police wouldn?t necessarily write more tickets, though he also told the council that verbal warnings are not effective at controlling traffic.

Halley said the municipal infraction is a good middle ground between a warning and a state ticket. A speeding ticket is $40, but the offender really has to pay $114 because of a 35 percent surcharge and $60 in court costs. Under a municipal infraction, the offender only pays the $40 ticket with no extra charges.

City Administrator Aaron Kooiker, a former police officer, said it?s against the law for police to set ticket quotas for their officers.

Gandy asked if a municipal infraction would affect a person?s insurance, and he was told it would not. Councilor Tom Thompson chimed in with a joke, ?I like the idea I don?t have to go back to driving school.?

City Attorney John Morrissey said the discussion around the municipal infraction focuses on traffic fines, but he said it would apply to other parts of the city code such as junk vehicles.

The council will now craft a municipal infraction ordinance. It will require three readings before it becomes law.