Source: Sherman Publications

News
Library director fears loss of ‘super drunk’ penal fines

by CJ Carnacchio

April 18, 2012

Both Oxford Township and Village are proceeding with the ordinance amendment process so as to allow so-called “super drunks” to be prosecuted locally as opposed to under state law, thus permitting the municipalities to recoup a portion of the fines levied against offenders.

However, Bryan Cloutier, director of the Oxford Public Library, is urging officials to consider the possible financial impact on his institution before enacting such a change.

“All I ask is that you keep in mind that if you . . . adopt an ordinance that would make a change to this, you could potentially be diverting penal fine revenue from the library,” he told the village council. “Any diversion of penal fine revenue, or any revenue for that matter right now, is not palatable for us.”

Enacted in 2010, the state’s “Super Drunk” law prohibits a person from operating a motor vehicle if they have a bodily alcohol content (BAC) of 0.17 or higher.

If convicted, the intoxicated offender faces one or more of the following penalties – 1) imprisonment for up to 180 days; 2) a fine of between $200 and $700; and community service for up to 360 hours.

The law only applies to first-time offenders.

As it stands right now, penal fine revenue collected for crimes prosecuted under state law is distributed to public libraries. For violations prosecuted under local ordinances, penal fine revenue is distributed to local courts and local governing units.

“In my opinion, I do believe that it would be in the best interest of this community to keep (the prosecution of) this under state statute so that the penal fine revenue does continue to go to the library,” Cloutier told the township board.

Last week, the village council voted 4-0 to schedule a public hearing for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 24 regarding the possibility of incorporating the state’s “Super Drunk” law as part of the local code of ordinances.

The township board is in the process of doing the same thing, however, it approved its first reading of the ordinance amendment and scheduled a second reading/potential adoption for its Wednesday, May 9 meeting.

Up until recently, violators of the Super Drunk law could only be prosecuted under state law, which in Oxford Township and Village means going through the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office as opposed using the local prosecutors they each employ.

That’s because the Super Drunk law raised the maximum jail term and fine for offenders, which prohibited police officers from writing tickets for high BAC violations under local ordinances.

As a rule, the penalty for ordinance violations is generally a fine of up to $500 and/or imprisonment for up to either 90 or 93 days.

A couple months ago, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law Public Acts 7-11, which permit townships, villages and cities to adopt and enforce local ordinances that reference the Super Drunk law, which is contained in Section 625(1)(c) of the state’s motor vehicle code.

Township and village officials are now seeking to enforce the Super Drunk law under local ordinances so as to gain some of this revenue and help offset local law enforcement costs.

Cloutier fears their gain will be the library’s loss and that’s why he went before both township and village officials to express his concerns. He told officials that last year, the library “received just under $20,000 in penal fine revenue” from crimes prosecuted under state law.

However, it was noted by some officials that $20,000 was derived from a variety of state law violations, not just the prosecution of super drunks.

“If there’s 100 kinds of penal fines, then were talking about a 1 percent impact on the library’s revenues,” noted village Councilman Dave Bailey. “(It’s a ) minimal impact, in other words.”

The number of people arrested in Oxford under the Super Drunk law has been quite small.

In the township, approximately 13 offenders have been arrested since the law took effect in 2010, according to Oakland County Sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Patterson, commander of the Oxford substation.

In the village, the number of arrests is practically nil. “We’ve only had one,” said village Police Chief Mike Neymanowski. “Most of our 0.17 or above (BAC arrests) are usually second-offenders, so we send them down anyway to the (county) prosecutor. As far as I know with the Super Drunk (law), we’ve only dealt with one.”

But Cloutier told both boards the library can’t handle any cuts in revenue right now, no matter how small.

“We’re seeing tax revenue decline as you are,” he told the village council. “We’re seeing diversion of funds through tax capture (to finance the Downtown Development Authority). We’re seeing a lot of issues that are affecting us.”

Cloutier told township officials the library budget has experienced reductions “in excess of $300,000 over the last four or so years.”

Add to that, the movement in the state Legislature to possibly eliminate or phase out the personal property tax “without any means of replacing that revenue,” plus the additional revenue cuts projected for 2013 and Cloutier told township officials that “any cut to penal fine revenue at this point is just not palatable to me.”

The director wished it noted his interest in this issue is purely a financial one. He’s not advocating any kind of leniency toward drunk drivers.

“I’m not here to defend drunk drivers because I think they need to pay for what they do,” he said. “That’s not where I’m coming from. I just want to make that clear.”

“You can still ticket a drunk driver under state statute,” Cloutier told the township board. “Any ordinance (amendment) that changes it from state statute (to local ordinance) doesn’t assure that the money’s going to stay with the library . . . Please, as you go forward with this process, (take) that into consideration.”






day, April 24 regarding the possibility of incorporating the state’s “Super Drunk” law as part of the local code of ordinances.

The township board is in the process of doing the same thing, however, it approved its first reading of the ordinance amendment and scheduled a second reading/potential adoption for its Wednesday, May 9 meeting.

Up until recently, violators of the Super Drunk law could only be prosecuted under state law, which in Oxford Township and Village means using the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office.

That’s because the Super Drunk law raised the maximum jail term and fine for offenders, which prohibited police officers from writing tickets for high BAC violations under local ordinances.

As a rule, the penalty for ordinance violations is generally a fine of up to $500 and/or imprisonment for up to either 90 or 93 days.

However, a couple months ago, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law Public Acts 7-11, which permit townships, villages and cities to adopt and enforce local ordinances that reference the Super Drunk law, which is contained in Section 625(1)(c) of the state’s motor vehicle code.

Township and village officials are now seeking to enforce the Super Drunk law under local ordinances so as to gain some of this revenue and help offset local law enforcement costs.

Cloutier fears their gain will be the library’s loss and that’s why he went before both township and village officials to express his concerns. He told officials that last year, the library “received just under $20,000 in penal fine revenue” from crimes prosecuted under state law.

However, it was noted by some officials that $20,000 was derived from a variety of state law violations, not just the prosecution of super drunks.

“If there’s 100 kinds of penal fines, then were talking about a 1 percent impact on the library’s revenues,” said village Councilman Dave Bailey. “(It’s a ) minimal impact, in other words.”

The number of people arrested in Oxford under the Super Drunk law has been quite small.

In the township, approximately 13 offenders have been arrested since the law took effect in 2010, according to Oakland County Sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Patterson, commander of the Oxford substation.

In the village, the number of arrests is practically nil.

“We’ve only had one,” said village Police Chief Mike Neymanowski. “Most of our 0.17 or above (BAC arrests) are usually second-offenders, so we send them down anyway to the (county) prosecutor. As far as I know with the Super Drunk (law), we’ve only dealt with one.”

But Cloutier told both boards the library can’t handle any cuts in revenue right now, no matter how small.

“We’re seeing tax revenue decline as you are,” he told the village council. “We’re seeing diversion of funds through tax capture (to finance the Downtown Development Authority). We’re seeing a lot of issues that are affecting us.”

Cloutier told township officials the library budget has experienced reductions “in excess of $300,000 over the last four or so years.”

Add to that, the movement in the state Legislature to possibly eliminate or phase out the personal property tax “without any means of replacing that revenue,” plus the additional revenue cuts projected for 2013 and Cloutier told township officials that “any, any cut to penal fine revenue at this point is just not palatable to me.”

The director wished it noted his interest in this issue is purely a financial one. He’s not advocating any kind of leniency for drunk drivers.

“I’m not here to defend drunk drivers because I think they need to pay for what they do,” he said. “That’s not where I’m coming from. I just want to make that clear.”

“You can still ticket a drunk driver under state statute,” Cloutier told the township board. “Any ordinance (amendment) that changes it from state statute doesn’t assure that the money’s going to stay with the library . . . Please as you go forward with this process, (take) that into consideration.”