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Ordinance would offer 'second chance' instead of jail for traffic offense

Published: Wednesday, July 29 2015 5:51 a.m. MDT

Unified Police check for chains and four-wheel drive in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Unified Police check for chains and four-wheel drive in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — If you fail to show up to court for a traffic offense, a justice court judge can issue a warrant for your arrest.

And the next time you get pulled over, an officer can impound your car and book you into jail.

An ordinance under consideration by the Salt Lake County Council would give you a second chance to get your affairs in order.

Instead of taxing jail resources, monopolizing officers’ time transporting people to jail and impounding their cars, officers could write a citation ordering people to appear in court within five business days.

Taylorsville has switched to this approach and has experienced an 80 percent compliance rate, said Unified Police Lt. Manferd Lassig.

Unified police officer Jim McNeice blocks the entrance to Neffs Canyon where a man was reported to be with a gun in Millcreek on Monday, Feb. 20, 2012. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Unified police officer Jim McNeice blocks the entrance to Neffs Canyon where a man was reported to be with a gun in Millcreek on Monday, Feb. 20, 2012. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

“Say we have 100 warrants. That’s 80 people we’re not taking to jail. That’s 80 people who we're not impounding their cars” at the cost of $300, he said.

“If I can get the same end result in 10 minutes verses 1 ½ hours, that’s great. In that amount of time, I can handle three other calls,” Lassig said.

The ordinance would apply only to non-DUI traffic, class B misdemeanors.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said the ordinance provides a "second chance" to people who have misplaced or forgotten traffic citations.

The ordinance provides “a fiscally smart way to take care of it,” he said. “We don’t want to waste resources. … This says let’s be adults and take care of it.”

Gill asked the County Council to limit the ordinance to traffic violations. It would not apply to charges related to domestic violence or drunken driving.

If a person offered the “second chance” does not appear in court as directed, they can be charged with a class B misdemeanor.

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com

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