Search Results for ‘st. louis fines fees’

St. Louis suburb runs town hall on ticket money. Is that illegal?

We’ve reported many times on the syndrome of towns outside St. Louis which, often lacking another promising tax base for municipal services, run ticket mills so as to get by on fine and fee revenue. Missouri law limits the share of their budget that can be derived from traffic fines, but not other fines, which means that some towns like Pagedale hammer their homeowners and other locals with regular fines over untrimmed trees, barbecue sets left in front yards, and other minor offenses. But is this illegal? An Institute for Justice lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of persons fined for violations as minor as mismatched blinds. [Scott Shackford, Reason]

Law enforcement for profit roundup

Police and community roundup

Police and community roundup

  • Lucrative: Los Angeles writes $197 tickets for entering a crosswalk with “Don’t Walk” blinking [L.A. Times, more]
  • Forfeiture reform bill in Tennessee legislature stalls after “a key committee heard from family members who are in law enforcement and who do not want to give up a source of income.” [WTVF (auto-plays ad) via Balko]
  • As protagonists got deeper into trouble, they kept making bad decisions: Heather Mac Donald has a dissenting take on Alice Goffman’s much-noted book “On the Run” [City Journal, more favorable Tyler Cowen review previously linked]
  • In Georgia: “Probation Firm Holds Poor For ‘Ransom,’ Suit Charges” [NBC News, Thomasville, Ga., Times-Enterprise]
  • Police and fire jobs are dangerous by ordinary measure but involve less risk of fatality on job than trucker (2-3x risk), construction, taxi, groundskeeper, sanitation [New York Times]
  • Police think tank finds St. Louis County ticketing culture “dysfunctional and unsustainable” [Ryan J. Reilly, HuffPo] John Oliver on snowballing effect of petty municipal fines and fees [YouTube] NYC is writing fewer summonses for teenagers these days [Brian Doherty]
  • “Subtle hand movements,” whispering, being nervous, changes in breathing: list of six “invisible” signs someone is resisting an officer [Grant Stern, Photography Is Not a Crime response to Joel Shults, PoliceOne]

“Taxation by citation”

Missouri lawmakers are discussing a bill that would discourage speed traps and excessive municipal reliance on fines by providing that revenue from traffic citations could not exceed 10 percent of a town’s revenues, down from 30 percent currently. [St. Louis Public Radio]

Former St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch testified in favor of Senate Bill 5 Wednesday before the senate committee on local government.

“We are not supposed to be in the business, in law enforcement, of generating revenue for the cities,” Fitch said. “I think, personally, municipal courts should be able to recover their costs, but they shouldn’t be profit generators. It’s not a business; you’re not supposed to be able to buy chairs for the mayor’s office with traffic ticket fines.”

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale), cited the way traffic citations can snowball with late fees, doubling or tripling of fines, arrest after missed court dates, and loss of jobs. Many towns, on the other hand, don’t want to lose the revenue:

City officials, including a few mayors such as Cool Valley Mayor Viola Murphy, testified against the bill.

“You have money that comes in, but it goes right back out,” Murphy said. “It goes back out to different funds that are needed … I wouldn’t want to see (the) battered women’s fund cut; I wouldn’t want to see police training cut.”

Police and prosecution roundup

  • At least twelve Baltimore cops sought workers’ comp for stress after using deadly force on citizens [Luke Broadwater, Baltimore Sun/Carroll County Times]
  • “D.C. Council votes to overhaul asset forfeiture, give property owners new rights” [Washington Post]
  • A different view on Ferguson: Richard Epstein defends grand jury outcome [Hoover]
  • “The House GOP leadership is blocking a police militarization reform bill from even getting a vote.” [Zach Carter, HuffPo, via @radleybalko]
  • Will potential cost of citizen public records requests sink police body-camera schemes? [Seattle Times, ABA Journal]
  • Marissa Alexander case, cited by critics of mandatory minimum sentencing, ends in plea deal [Brian Doherty, earlier, CBS Sunday Morning on mandatory minimum sentencing]
  • Forensics guy hired by Michael Brown’s family: “If they want to think I’m a physician, then more power to them.” [Radley Balko]
  • St. Louis County fines/fees: “Municipal courts charge $100 for Christmas gift of fake amnesty” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial]

“America’s Most Fee-Ridden Cities”

I’m quoted in this Reason TV segment by Zach Weissmueller on the problem of municipalities that stake their finances on overzealous fee collection:

“When you have towns like those in St. Louis County that get in some cases, 40 percent of their municipal revenue in fines and fees, they have chosen a very expensive way of taxing their population, one that creates maximum hassle and maximum hostility,” says Walter Olson, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and publisher of the blog Overlawyered.

Aside from Ferguson, Mo., the piece uses as examples the notorious Los Angeles suburb of Bell, Calif., exposed in a scandal as being run for the benefit of its managers, and — a smart choice — Detroit, a city with a long-time adversarial stance toward its small businesses and others trying to do everyday business in the town:

…what really grants Detroit this honor is “Operation Compliance,” an initiative pushed by former mayor David Bing aimed at bringing all of Detroit’s small businesses up to code through costly permitting. The initiative launched with the stated goal of shutting down 20 businesses a week.

Police and community roundup

  • “As Ferguson waits, some lessons from the Rodney King riots” [Radley Balko] “ACLU wins federal court orders on right to video police in Ferguson, elsewhere” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
  • “What charges could the Michael Brown grand jury consider, if they choose to indict?” [Paul Cassell, Volokh; related on Missouri jury instructions regarding deadly force by police, Robert VerBruggen/Real Clear Policy]
  • Quick links: things this site has published on Ferguson, on police militarization, on police issues generally;
  • Interview with University of Illinois lawprof Andrew Leipold on grand jury process [U of I] A reminder about the surprisingly high error rates of eyewitness testimony [Balko]
  • “Judges propose wide reform of St. Louis County’s municipal courts” [StL; related, holiday warrant forgiveness] Municipal court fines and fees: “Why we need to fix St. Louis County” [Radley Balko, related (Better Together report), earlier here, here from Balko, etc.]
  • “The hurdles for indicting or convicting a uniformed officer are high, for many reasons.” Survey of police deadly force issue [L.A. Times] Police forces have strayed far from the “Peel Principles” for which London police were so admired [Tuccille, Reason]
  • Not much. “Whatever Happened To The White House Police Militarization Review?” [Evan McMorris-Santoro, BuzzFeed]

Police and prosecution roundup

Police roundup

  • Spectacular investigative report from Radley Balko on fines, fees, and revenue-driven law enforcement in the towns north of St. Louis [WaPo] Reading it, I’m pretty confident my two cents a couple of weeks ago was on the right track;
  • Talk about wrong turns: some self-styled progressives want to seize the moment to extend federal government control further over local police management [BuzzFeed, Scott Greenfield (“czar” idea)]
  • More reporting on how we got police militarization [ProPublica, Newsweek]
  • Race, police, and political power in Ferguson [Charles Cobb guest-posting at Volokh] Richard Epstein on not jumping to factual conclusions (link fixed now);
  • N.Z.: “Police union’s election year wishlist” [Radio New Zealand (via @EricCrampton who comments: “Short version: any restriction on liberty that makes their job easier”); yesterday’s post]
  • Pretextual pot busts? Zimring’s curious defense of NYC “broken windows” policing [NYP]
  • Yes, there’s a SWAT lobby in Washington, D.C., behaving as you’d expect [Tim Mak, Daily Beast] “If Democrats Seek to ‘Rally Blacks’ Against Police Militarization, They Might Start with the Congressional Black Caucus” [Nick Gillespie; Zaid Jilani, Vanity Fair]
  • “Police Officers and Patents of Nobility” [Coyote] “Man shot, paralyzed over unpaid parking tickets” [Balko; Lehigh County, Pa.]