Lost in the shuffle

Courts recouping costs of paperwork with new fees

The city of West Linn wants all of its drivers to be safe ones. However, all those conscientious drivers are costing the city money.

Starting in the new year, the city will offset the costs associated with handling the files and paperwork that goes along with traffic violations. Fees will now apply to those who qualify to attend traffic school or safety classes.

Judge Heather Karabeika said the municipal court wants to reward drivers with good records if they should happen to get a ticket.

'We are trying to create a class of people being rewarded for safe driving,' she said.

Typically, if a young driver who has been driving for three years or less gets a ticket but has an otherwise unblemished record, the teen can attend a day-long traffic safety class. Then, the young driver has to keep his record clean for the next six months. The ticket will then be cleared and not reported to the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles. However, during all of that time, city staff has to keep track of the associated files. That staff time is not recouped, because fines are being waived.

'We realized this is costing us money,' Karabeika said. 'When we do this, we don't make any money on it, and we spend a fair amount of court time on it.'

Now, if a young driver qualifies and opts for the traffic class (which the driver must pay for), he must also pay a fee starting around $50.

'We are certainly trying to help the young drivers become better educated about driving,' Fran Blake, city court administrator, said.

The city wants to expand the safe drivers deferral program to adults as well. Now, if a driver who has had a clean record for 10 years or longer gets a ticket, she may also get the option of a clean record if a traffic safety class is attended. The fee associated with the adults starts at $75 and doesn't include the cost of the class, which ranges from $50 to $75.

'We'd like to extend that to adults with a clean record,' Karabeika said. 'We do see a fair amount of those.'

She said some people are quite disappointed when they've gotten a ticket for the first time in years.

'It's pretty upsetting to those people who are trying to keep their record clean,' Karabeika said.

The fees collected go into the city's general fund. The price of the fees will vary, mirroring the seriousness of the offense.

The West Linn City Council approved the new fee system during its Dec. 12 meeting.

'I think this sounds like an excellent program,' city councilor Jody Carson said.