September 29, 2007

Administrative tickets for Fireworks violations?

Here is a way for Lakewood to accelerate the fireworks citation process. You avoid citizen arrest issues and hiring a bunch of highly overpaid sheriffs. Just use administrative citations and administrative ticket writers" like the parking staff to write 4th of July tickets. Sure some may get beaten (like in the story below) but if you compare this success rate to the track record of Sheriff "infraction" citations in the municipal court I am sure that the administrative success rate would be even better than the success rate in court as there are relaxed rules of evidence etc. Why does Lakewood not initiate this? Who knows. Maybe they never even thought of it Or its due to the fact that the city council favors fireworks. It can blame failures in prosecutions (and the lack of deterrent effect) on the court system and not its own process. Of course if the Lakewood administrative citation program was a dismal as its administrative parking citation system we would be in big trouble.

Seven Beat 4th Fines
Sep 25, 2007
By Christopher Quirk

Gilroy - The city reversed seven of 41 administrative citations for illegal fireworks that police and firefighters doled out July 4 after residents appealed the citations.

The city of Gilroy heard appeals Aug. 20 from eight residents, many of whom were outraged when, two to three days after Independence Day, a letter showed up in their mailbox informing them they had violated the city's fireworks ban and had to pay $250. For these seven residents - some of whom were not home July 4 - the appeal was the end to a messy and infuriating administrative citation process.

"I'm glad they gave us the chance to do this," Imperial Drive resident Desiree Vaca said. "There's a lot of innocent people."

Vaca was inside her house July 4 when an illegal firework went off at the end of her street, she said. A police officer, who had been parked at the opposite end of Imperial Drive, saw the explosion and accused a boy who was in front of her house, but who did not live with her, of setting off the fireworks. The officer then asked for the owner of the property and Vaca came forward. A few days later, she received a citation.

As rattling as the citation process was, the appeal process was smooth, Vaca said. She scheduled an appointment for an appeal, spoke during her 15-minute slot and the citation was reversed.

However, the letter that accompanied the citation did not encourage an appeal.

"There are very limited situations that provide for a successful appeal," the letter read.

At least three residents felt their citations were unfair, but did not appeal because they thought they would not be believed.

"It's stupid to contest the fine," Snowberry Court resident Robert Bischoff said in a July interview. "You're going to go to a hearing when the officer will be called in, and it's your word against his. What am I going to prove? How can I prove anything?"

Bischoff claimed he was wrongfully cited for fireworks that one of his neighbors set off.

However, seven of the eight people who challenged the citations were successful, city Fire Marshall Jackie Bretschneider said. An additional appeal has been held over because the appellant cannot appear in court because of illness. The city stands to collect about $8,000 if the remaining 33 residents pay their fines.

Six of the seven successfully challenged citations were given out by firefighters, who were not as experienced in law enforcement as police officers, she said. This means six of 24 firefighter-issued citations were reversed, while only one of the 17 police-issued citations was reversed.

"There was a lot of stuff going on in the neighborhood," Bretschneider said. "It is difficult to identify really where something is coming from."

This past Independence Day was the second year that city law enforcement handed out administrative and misdemeanor citations and the first year that firefighters helped with enforcement. Previously, police officers issued only misdemeanor illegal fireworks citations, which require officers to prove that the suspect owns the fireworks and, if convicted, would go on the suspect's record. As with all new practices, there are still kinks to work out in the system, Bretschneider said.

"I would say making the citation process work better for all parties would serve us well," she said.

When the fire and police departments go on their annual public safety retreat [retreat...what?!] , the administrative citation process will be a topic of discussion, Bretschneider said. However, the experience of patrolling July 4 has already taught firefighters lessons, she said.

"They learned a little bit more about how to identify exactly where things were coming from," she said. "That will be a lesson that hopefully will be learned at that end."

Christopher Quirk
Christopher Quirk covers education for the Dispatch. Contact him at 847-7240 or

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | | Lakewood, CA
A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™

No comments: