County attorney’s office will continue to pursue repeat DAR offendersWORTHINGTON — Recently, the Minnesota Court Payment Call Center, which began operation in October 2009, logged its one millionth call. More than one million payable citations are processed each year, and requests for assistance in using the interactive voice response system to pay by credit card are routed through the call center.
WORTHINGTON — Recently, the Minnesota Court Payment Call Center, which began operation in October 2009, logged its one millionth call. More than one million payable citations are processed each year, and requests for assistance in using the interactive voice response system to pay by credit card are routed through the call center.
According to a policy statement by the Minnesota Judicial Council, all statutory petty misdemeanor offenses are payable, as are many misdemeanors, meaning those cited are not required to attend court for that offense. Payable misdemeanor offenses that may be enhanced to gross misdemeanors are presumed to be payable if charged by citation.
Which is why Nobles County Attorney Gordon Moore said his office has asked law enforcement officers to not ticket repeat offenders of driving after revocation, suspension or cancellation, but to forward those cases to his office for formal complaints.
“We have law enforcement help us identity those people and have created a separate track for those folks,” Moore said. “It’s the best we can do.”
People who are charged with repeat offenses for driving after revocation, suspension or cancellation, or those cited for driving without a valid license can never be charged for more than a misdemeanor, unless their driver’s license has been cancelled inimical to public safety (IPS). This means no matter how many times a person is cited for driving without a license, they will not be required to show up in court. If the officers send the matter to the attorney’s office for a formal complaint, however, the person will end up making court appearances and could serve a jail sentence of up to 90 days.
“The legislature, with the exception of the IPS, has not created a repeat offender driver’s license statute.” Moore stated. “The only option the court system has is jail — 90 days per offense. Theoretically they can stack a certain number of them.”
It is unfortunate, Moore said, because jail cells should be reserved for people who are a danger to society.
“Of course, some of these folks are a danger to society because they have never taken driver’s education and have no interest in following the rules that apply to the rest of us,” he said.
The courts came up with a list of offenses considered payable to save on court time.
“It happened because of court budget problems. They were looking for cost savings,” Moore explained. “It keeps the more petty cases out of the courtroom.”
He doesn’t believe court time should be wasted, Moore said, but the handful of people who continually violate the law are a concern. When they see the same names come through repeatedly, the only option is incarceration.
“With the long list of legislative initiatives, repeat DAR (driving after revocation) isn’t a high issue, but it does seem like there should be more sanction available,” Moore said. “There should be more tools in the toolbox to deal with these folks.”
His office is also keeping a close eye on uninsured drivers, which is also on the payable list. People driving without insurance are also a danger to the public, Moore believes, and his office tries to charge repeat offenders formally so the conviction ends up on record.
“If there is a third offense within a 10-year period, uninsured driver charges can be prosecuted as a gross misdemeanor,” he said. “We want to be sure we have that option available.
A small jail sentence isn’t always much of a deterrent to repeat offenders, especially since a misdemeanor DAR could be the least of an offender’s problems in the court system, but Moore said his office will continue to aggressively seek imposed jail sentences for flagrant offenders.
“We think it is worth the time and expense, and we are doing it,” he stated.
For adult payable offenses charged by citation, the amount fined is set by the Judicial Council for each offense charged, plus the applicable library fee and surcharges. If the citation charges multiple offenses and the person chooses to make payment in lieu of appearing in court, a conviction is entered in each offense.
According to a representative from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, incidents of repeat offenders of driving after revocation, suspension and cancellation are not tracked by the state.