Roseville plans to write more of own tickets and keep all the money

Roseville plans to write more of own tickets and keep all the money

Feb. 02, 2009  Sacramento Bee

Tickets for running a stop sign or ignoring a "No U-Turn" sign soon may be less expensive for drivers in Roseville but much more profitable for the city.

It's all part of Roseville's plan to encourage police to write tickets for certain types of moving violations under the city's municipal code, rather than the state vehicle code.

The plan would put conservative Roseville shoulder-to-shoulder with Berkeley and a few other cities. But the plan doesn't sit well with the insurance industry.

The difference for offenders? A lower fine – $100 instead of $146 for first offenses – and a driver's record without added "points" that can lead to higher insurance premiums or even a revoked license.

The difference for the city? No need to share the fine revenue with Placer County and the state. So the city would get $100, instead of its standard share of $31.50, according to Roseville police spokeswoman Dee Dee Gunther.

Police Capt. Stan Lumsden, who runs the city's traffic division, said the plan makes sense on several levels.

"If you are going to write tickets, why not put more money in the city's pocket so we can afford to keep our traffic safety programs going?" Lumsden said.

He stressed that officers will not start writing more tickets just to boost revenue.

"That is not what drives them," he said. "What drives them is public safety.

"But I'm not going to make any apologies. Frankly, the city should get the benefit of those fines if they do all the work."

Lumsden said city police have been writing commercial violations – mostly involving truck routes, loads and license issues – under the municipal code since last summer. In the first three months, the city collected about $6,800.

Truck drivers tend to pay fines sooner, he said, and are less likely to contest the muni code tickets than California Vehicle Code citations.

Roseville's municipal codes for traffic violations have been on the books for years, but a training program in the works likely will make that type of tickets more common, Lumsden said. No start date has been set for the training or the broader use of muni code tickets, he said.

He said officers will not use the muni code for red-light violations and noted that the city is not using red-light cameras for now because it's between contracts with a provider.

But officers can cite for lesser moving violations, such as stop signs, driving on the wrong side of the road or disobeying one-way and U-turn traffic signs.

Some cities, including Folsom, use their municipal codes for commercial truck citations, but most cities limit use to parking tickets. Sacramento uses the codes mostly for parking and bicycle violations, said spokesman Sgt. Norm Leong.

Berkeley, though, gives officers discretion similar to Roseville's plan, said Sgt. Robert Rittenhouse of the Berkeley police traffic bureau.

He said the goal is not to generate revenue, however, and did not know if Berkeley's fines were lower for municipal code tickets.

News of Roseville's plan has rankled at least one Southern California driver and the Association of California Insurance Companies.

Jim Lissner, a police-traffic watchdog from Los Angeles, has sparred via e-mail with Roseville and a Southern California park district that has a similar approach to issuing traffic tickets.

"As I drive around California, I'm pretty much willing to obey the law," he said. "I can't do that if every city has its own laws.

"If I drive into their town, I'm liable to get one of these Mickey Mouse tickets that they probably wouldn't dare to issue if it would see the light of an actual court or judge … most people are just going to pay the tickets because they think they are getting a discount."

Samuel Sorich, president of a Sacramento insurance association, said his members write about half of the auto premiums in California. The muni code tickets pose serious issues regarding safety, as well as potentially unfair and unequal treatment for drivers, he said.

"California has a uniform vehicle code and under state law, a person's driving record is the most important determinant of his insurance premium," he said. "That was Prop. 103, which the voters approved (in 1988)."

If the driving record is not accurate, he said, people may not pay premiums that match their driving records.

He also said another reason that violations need to be reported is to take unsafe drivers off the road.

Roseville's Lumsden said Sorich made good points, but that city officers use discretion in writing tickets as municipal code violations.

"If an officer sees prior violations and such," he said, "he probably would write it under the vehicle code so it will follow the driver."

He also said fines from muni code tickets, though lower, still serve as deterrents.

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