By Oro Valley Magistrate Judge
There are a number of prevailing myths about traffic enforcement and fines in Oro Valley. Hopefully, the following will clear up some of the misconceptions prevalent in some parts of the community.
MYTH: The Police Department gets to arbitrarily set sanctions (fines) for speeding tickets and traffic violations.
FACT: The State Supreme Court mandates that each county have a Uniform Bond Schedule that sets out the amount of all fines and traffic sanctions, including surcharges imposed by the legislature. Under Arizona law, amounts imposed by the courts for “civil traffic” violations are called “sanctions,” and amounts imposed as part of a sentencing in a criminal case are called “fines.” Each year, the presiding judges of all the limited jurisdiction courts (municipal courts and justice courts) in each county have a discussion about whether the fines and/or sanctions in the Uniform Bond Schedule should be raised or lowered. The object of the Uniform Bond Schedule is that at least within a given county, drivers can expect to be treated relatively the same in all of the courts that handle traffic matters. (Please note that each court has its own separate fees that raise the amounts from those in the Uniform Bond Schedule.)
In other words, sanctions are not arbitrarily imposed, and the Oro Valley Police Department has no say in the actual sanction imposed.
MYTH: The money from traffic sanctions goes directly to the Police Department.
FACT: All amounts collected by the Magistrate Court go directly to the Town Finance Department to be distributed as required by law or placed in the Town’s General Fund to be used as part of the Town’s annual budget.
MYTH: Traffic fines are a major source of revenue for the Town of Oro Valley.
FACT: The budget for the Town of Oro Valley for FY2016/2017 was $34,900,000. The total received by the Town of Oro Valley for fines and courts fees on all cases, civil traffic and criminal charges for FY 2015/2016 was $131,637. That is about one third of one percent of the entire Town Budget.
MYTH: The Oro Valley Police Department has a citation quota.
FACT: Although this may be true in other jurisdictions, Chief of Police Daniel Sharp has confirmed that the Oro Valley Police Department does not have a citation quota for officers. Traffic laws are enforced as a matter of public safety, and the resulting fines imposed on the motorist are intended to encourage future adherence to traffic laws.
MYTH: The Town of Oro Valley receives all of the money collected from sanctions and fines.
FACT: A significant portion of the sanctions, fees and fines collected by the Oro Valley Magistrate Court are paid directly to the Arizona State Treasurer’s Office in the form of “surcharges” to fund various items which the legislature believes should not be paid for by taxing the general public. On every fine or sanction imposed, the Oro Valley Magistrate Court must add “surcharges” equal to 83% of the amount of the fine or sanction, a $20 surcharge to pay for Superior Court Probation Departments, and a $13 Justice Court technology fee.
For example, on a traffic fine of $100, Oro Valley must add $83 for the State surcharges, plus $20 probation fee surcharge and $13 technology fee, bringing the total fee to $216. Additionally, Oro Valley Magistrate Court has its own $25 Court Security Fee (to offset the costs of a bailiff and the metal detection equipment). So, the fine which began at $100 becomes $241, with Oro Valley receiving only $113.66. That is less than half of the amount collected. The “surcharges” are even higher on DUI cases (driving under the influence) cases, with the Town receiving only $263.66 of $1,538.00, the minimum that must be imposed by the court on such a case.
Busting a few myths on the topic of traffic fines and revenue in Oro Valley