Out-of-Talent traffic tickets sent to Justice Court

TALENT — City patrol officers who cite traffic violators stopped outside city limits have begun sending the citations to Jackson County Justice Court in Central Point rather than Circuit Court in Medford in an attempt to save staff time and possibly money, city officials said.

"It's just kind of a test run to see how it works," said City Manager Jay Henry.

The switch may result in less time spent by city staff on traffic court cases because of the difference in paperwork between circuit and justice court, city officials said. The staff has been reduced by the equivalent of 2.75 positions in City Hall and the police department as part of budget-cutting measures.

Drivers within city limits are still cited into Municipal Court for lesser offenses. All serious offenses, such as driving while under the influence of intoxicants, hit and run and other vehicular felonies, are cited into Circuit Court.

The change also reflects a shift in law enforcement patterns, said Talent Police Chief Mike Moran.

Moran said mutual-aid calls to back up Phoenix police and other law enforcement agencies have led to Talent officers citing more violators outside city limits.

"We are finding more of our time spent outside the city limits. The likelihood of seeing a violation in transit is increasing," said Moran. "In the old days, people pretty much stuck within their boundaries, but the reality of staffing is that we have to be more flexible on that to provide coverage on a mutual-aid basis."

During April officers issued 34 citations, including five DUIIs and four driving-while-suspended violations, which are regarded as serious offenses. A breakdown on how many were outside city limits was not available.

Officers and the public may find it more convenient to attend Justice Court, said Moran. Officers might find it easier to adjust schedules at the Justice Court when they are required to testify. Circuit Court is "a pretty busy place," according to Moran, who says the shift will help relieve some of that court's load.

"It's easier to call the smaller agency and say, 'We've had a last minute thing come up, can't we reschedule the officer?' " said Moran. "It's doable through Circuit Court, but it's a little more difficult for them to be flexible due to their size."

Phoenix and the Jackson County Sheriff's Department already cite misdemeanor violators into Justice Court. Arraignments, where drivers can plead their cases, are held at 3 p.m. Wednesdays.

Revenue to the city from traffic violations will remain roughly the same, Moran projected. Checks to Talent from the Circuit Court have varied month by month from as low as $300 to as high as $1,000 based on convictions. "The purpose of a ticket is not revenue," said Moran.

"We want to look at efficiencies and see how things run down there. So far it has been really easy," Moran said of the three-week trial. "The other thing to see is if it saves any costs."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.

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