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Municipal code traffic citations an option for cheaper tickets, general fund revenue

By: Megan Wood The Press Tribune
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In Roseville, a clean driving record could be your ticket to cheaper tickets. Last year, Roseville police began citing drivers under the Roseville Municipal Code as a way to save drivers money for minor traffic violations and reclaim fines that would otherwise go to the state. “It’s an intermediate step between a verbal warning and a state code violation,” said Roseville Police spokeswoman Dee Dee Gunther. “For drivers that have a clean driving record and didn’t commit an egregious violation it’s an opportunity for further education and a cheaper fine, which goes back to the city.” According to Gunther, under the California Vehicle Code, running a stop sign in Roseville would result in a $201 ticket, only $31.50 of which would actually go back to the city. The rest is eaten up by court fees, county fees and the state DNA fund, which allows for DNA testing for suspects of criminal cases. When Yvonne Fox rolled a stop sign in Tahoe last month, her first moving violation in several years, her ticket under the California Vehicle Code totaled $300 after numerous state and court fines were added. “It was my first ticket in a long time, it would have been nice to have had a break,” Fox said. “Now I’ve got a huge ticket and a point on my license.” Citing under the Roseville Municipal code may have only started in February 2009, but Gunther said the municipal codes that officers issue citations for have been on the books since the 1980s. “It’s under the same municipal codes that allow the city to put up signs or regulate traffic in the city,” Gunther said. Officers are given freedom to use their own discretion when choosing to cite under the Roseville Municipal Code or the California Vehicle Code. An officer takes into consideration the severity of the infraction, current conditions and the drivers previous record, Gunther said. Since beginning the practice in February 2009, Roseville officers have issued 628 moving violation citations as Roseville Municipal code violations out of a total 17,000 tickets issued. The Municipal Code Violations sent $40,985 back into the city’s general fund. Last year 17,045 citations were issued under the California Vehicle Code and the city received $563,190.04. According to Gunther, the traffic enforcement unit, which issues 70 percent of the city’s total traffic citations and assists with DUI enforcement and investigates major injury accidents costs the city a total $1.56 million. Other state municipalities including Berkeley, Oakland, Long Beach and Riverbank have also sidestepped the state vehicle code in favor of citing under their city codes. The trend has the California Department of Motor Vehicles and state officials frustrated at cities’ budget balancing acts. “When cities cite under their own codes, the DMV doesn’t receive records of drivers committing traffic infractions,” said Roseville DMV information officer, Armando Botello. “We lose track of multiple offenders and the point system isn’t controlled.” Last month, State Sen. Jenny Oropeza of Long Beach introduced Senate Bill 949 to stop the practice of cities citing under their own municipal codes, claiming the irregularity in citation fines would be confusing to drivers and “robs” the state of revenue. “Screw the state,” said Sacramento resident Ron Roberts. “I think it’s completely fair. The state is failing on too many counts these days, why should they be entitled to anything more? There’s too many fingers in the cookie jar that money should go to the cities.” Fast Facts Violations that can be cited under either the state vehicle code or the Roseville municipal code include: - Disobedience to traffic control devices - Illegal u-turns - Running, or rolling, through a stop sign - Disobeying one-way streets Under the Roseville Municipal Code officers can ticket: -$100 for a first offense -$200 for a second offense -$500 for a third and subsequent offenses Under the California Vehicle Code, a first offense citation can cost $200 or more. The issuing city receives only 15 percent of the total fine. Citation Breakdown 15,553 Moving violation citations issued under California State Vehicle Code. City received: $488,066.83 16,417 Moving Violation citations issued under California State Vehicle Code. City Received: $563,190.04 628 Roseville Municipal Code citations issued. City Received: $40,985 Megan Wood can be reached at meganw@goldcountrymedia.com