A heavy foot on the accelerator is going to produce a lighter pocket book for Lawrence motorists if city commissioners approve a new set of fines for speeding violations.
City Hall staff members are proposing a $30 increase in speeding fines, giving Lawrence one of the higher total ticket prices in the region, according to information compiled by the city.
The city hasn't changed its fine for speeding tickets since 2009, said Maria Kaminska, assistant city attorney.
"We periodically look at our fines and fees," said Kaminska. "We don't want to be the most expensive, but we also don't want to be at the bottom when it comes to these fines."
The latest fine proposal, which commissioners will discuss at their Tuesday evening meeting, would ensure that the city is not near the bottom. The ordinance proposes to increase the minimum fine for a speeding ticket to $80, up from $50.
The $80 fine will give the city the fourth highest speeding fine among the 10 communities that the city surveyed. But when you add in the court costs each city charges, Lawrence will have the second highest total ticket price.
Lawrence's total ticket price for a standard speeding ticket would be $140, trailing only nearby Baldwin City, which checks in at $160. According to the results of the city's survey, here's what other communities charge for speeding tickets:
- Baldwin City: $85 fine; $75 court costs; $160 total
- Lawrence: $80 fine; $60 court costs: $140 total
- Olathe: $96 fine; $34 court costs; $130 total
- Topeka: $45 fine; $72 court costs; $117 total
- Atchison: $40 fine; $75 court costs; $115 total
- Hutchinson: $25 fine; $76 court costs; $101 total
- Overland Park: $80.50 fine; $20.50 court costs; $101 total
- Manhattan: $18 fine; $79 court costs; $97 total
- Salina: $35 fine; $55 court costs; $90 total
- Shawnee: $31.50 fine; $45.50 court costs: $77 total
Lawrence officials point out that the proposed changes would bring the city's standard speeding ticket total in line with the $141 charged by the state. Kansas district courts charge $96 in court costs and a $45 fine for a minimum speeding ticket, which is given when a motorist is breaking the speed limit by 10 miles per hour or less.
Kaminska said the city doesn't yet have an estimate on how much the new fine would increase city revenue.
Defendants in Lawrence Municipal Court may face some other changes as well. The city also is proposing:
• An increase in the fine for driving with defective equipment. The city is proposing an $80 fine, up from $50 currently. Defective equipment citations are given for violations such as a broken turn signals or inoperative headlights or taillights.
• A new policy that would allow the Municipal Court judge to order a person found guilty to repay the city for any legal costs related to the city having provided them an attorney.
In cases where an individual is facing charges that could result in jail time, the city is required to appoint a defense attorney if the defendant can't afford one. Currently, the city does nothing to recoup those costs from defendants.
"But it is permissible by state statute, and there are several cities that are now recouping those costs," Kaminska said.
Kaminska said the situation would apply in more serious misdemeanor cases such as theft, battery and some driving-under-the-influence cases. A defendant would be responsible for costs ranging from about $100 for a simple defense to several hundred dollars if the case is more complex, Kaminska said.
The proposed ordinance gives the Municipal Court judge the option of waiving the repayment requirement if he believes the defendant doesn't have the means to pay. The ordinance also gives the judge the ability to set up a payment plan for defendants.
Defendants would be subject to the repayment only if they were found guilty or entered into a diversion agreement.
The city paid about $103,000 in 2012 to provide legal services to indigent defendants. Kaminska said that cost has been going up in recent years.
City commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.