Council clears
new driving fines

The mayor now must consider
the measure biting into the
state's traffic violations pie

Honolulu motorists who break the city traffic code would get a different kind of traffic ticket under a bill passed yesterday by the City Council.

City & County of Honolulu The Council gave the green light yesterday to establishing administrative traffic tickets with civil penalties that would result in fines going to city coffers.

Councilman Charles Djou, who introduced the bill, said it is a "polite, gentle signal" to the state Legislature to decide whether to give the counties a portion of state traffic revenues instead of having the administrative traffic fines program go into effect.

"It's ready to go, and it's going to happen unless the Legislature next year does something about it," Djou said. "Hey, if the Legislature doesn't do anything, well, this is $5 million to $10 million for the next city budget."

The highlights of the bill are:

>> Drivers or parked vehicles that are caught violating the city traffic code -- mainly offenses on city streets -- could receive an administrative citation instead of a traditional traffic citation. The officer could also issue a traditional ticket.

>> The fine would be $10 less than what is currently the penalty.

>> If the fine is paid, the money would be paid directly to the city, and "the alleged violator shall be deemed not to have committed a violation of that provision."

>> If a motorist wants to challenge the ticket or does not pay the administrative ticket within 10 days, a traditional traffic citation would be issued, and the case would proceed, under current procedures, to the state Traffic Violations Bureau or the courts.

>> The bill goes into effect July 1, 2005.

The bill now goes to Mayor Jeremy Harris for consideration. While the city administration has supported the bill previously, it is not known what the mayor will do.

The bill also has the support of the police union.

Police Assistant Chief Robert Prasser said yesterday that the 2005 effective date gives the department enough time to work out the details of how to administer the program.

But Lori Nishimura, of the city prosecutor's office, said that language in an earlier version of the bill could have sparked legal challenges over the whether it is an "arbitrary and capricious exercise in judgment" for an officer to determine whether to issue an administrative ticket or a traditional citation.

Police officials said that out of the 5,000 traffic stops that are made per year, 2,500 tickets are currently issued.

Djou said, however, that the final version of the bill removes the questions about arbitrary discretion on the part of police.

The biggest legal question, however, remains unanswered: whether the city has the authority to issue these administrative citations for traffic offenses.

"Clearly, the city has the ability and the power to issue administrative fines. We issue fines for building permits -- this is within our purview," Djou said. "The question is not whether the city has the power to do it; it's whether or not the state government has pre-empted that power."


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