March 13, 2013

Traffic-ticket discount bill moves to Maine House

The 10-2 committee rejection isn't enough to kill the bill outright, but it projects a very dim future.

AUGUSTA – A legislator's attempt to give a break on traffic fines to drivers who don't fight the issue in court is still alive, but just barely.

click image to enlarge

Rep. Tim Marks, D-Pittston

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

The Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 10-2 Wednesday in opposition to L.D. 190, sponsored by Rep. Tim Marks, D-Pittston. His bill would give a 10 percent discount to drivers who pay their traffic fines without challenging them in court.

Marks, a retired state trooper, sponsored the bill because he doesn't think it's fair that those who pay the fines without contesting the tickets sometimes pay more than those who go to court. However, the bill's projected cost – a loss of $1 million to the state's General Fund and an additional $250,000 hit to local law enforcement – prompted most committee members to reject the bill.

"There's a purpose for traffic enforcement, and I'm not too keen on giving a discount," said Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, a former Cumberland County sheriff. "We're going to hurt a lot of viable law enforcement programs."

Marks said he wanted to help local police departments, state police and county sheriffs save money by reducing the time officers spend in court.

As a trooper, he was paid four hours of overtime every time he went to court, whether he was there for one case or 10. He thinks his bill also would save court officials' time by reducing the traffic docket load.

Traffic fines vary widely depending on the offense. State law calls for a $137 fine for driving 10 to 14 mph over the speed limit. A 10 percent discount would lower the amount to $123.30.

Some committee members said they don't think that 10 percent would be enough of a discount to prompt more people to pay up front. Now, 80 percent of drivers hit with traffic fines pay without going to court, according to the state court system.

The 10-2 vote against the bill means it will go to the House of Representatives for consideration, but has little chance of passing.

Only Marks and Sen. David Dutremble, D-Biddeford, voted in support of the bill.

 

Susan Cover can be contacted at 621-5643 or at:

scover@mainetoday.com

 

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