City mulls new ordinances, fines, for minor offenses

Apr 25, 2017

Following SB 91's reforms, City of Dillingham seeking to add trespassing, underage drinking, and violating conditions of release to city ordinance, with each carrying a hefty fine for violations.

Because the Dillingham Police Department spends time enforcing trespassing and underage drinking, the city wants to collect the fines associated with violations.
Credit KDLG

On May 4, the Dillingham city council will consider adding some costly fines to some minor offenses. Trespassing, underage drinking, and violating conditions of release may no longer land a person in jail, but they could take a bite out of the wallet.

When the Dillingham city council meets May 4, they will vote on whether to add two new offenses to the municipal code and change the language of a third. Underage drinking, violating court ordered conditions of release, and second degree trespassing are not usually "arrestable" offenses any longer under state law, and the city would rather enforce each itself with a hefty penalty attached. 

“We looked at some offenses that Dillingham Police enforce on a fairly consistent basis, and a lot of these offenses now just result in fines," said police chief Dan Pasquariello. "There’s no jail time attached, violators just get a monetary fine."

In many cases, the state's prosecutor will not assist in the case anyway, meaning these offenses are handled more like a traffic ticket: the police officer needs to be present in court if the alleged offender challenges the officer's claim.

The problem, as the city sees it, is that the state is collecting what small revenue there may be from fines associated with these offenses.

“The city, via the code committee, decided that if we’re going to be accomplishing that work, we might as well adopt these offenses as city ordinances. That way the city can get any violation revenues, as opposed to the state," said Pasquariello.

If adopted, the penalties will be steep. Violating underage drinking or trespassing ordinances could result in a $500 fine, and violating conditions of release could carry a $1000 fine.

Chief Pasquariello explained how the city would change to enforcing underage drinking under its own ordinance, rather than state law. 

“There used to be a provision where, after the third offense, it became a crime and the violator could go to jail," he said, referencing how minors consuming alcohol used to be handled by state prosecutors. "But now every violation is just the same, it’s just a fine like a traffic ticket."

Under the proposed new city code, "We would pick the juvenile up, contact the parents, make them come down [and] take custody of their child, and write a citation.”

Trespassing will be handled similarly, though the chief points out there are different degrees of that offense that could determine whether it was handled as a city or state offense.

“Like somebody trespassing say in a business, in a lobby, could be classified as a nuisance offense," which would likely get a city citation. "But if somebody is trespassing in your house, that’s a little more serious," he said.

Violating court ordered conditions of a person’s release in an ongoing case carries almost no meaningful penalties at the moment, but dealing with VCORs takes up an inordinate amount of police time. The recommendation before the council is to attach a $1000 penalty to VCORs, with the intent of discouraging people from breaking their agreement with the court.

Two additional fines will be added to existing violations: $100 for smoking marijuana in public places and $100 for smoking marijuana in or around motor vehicles. The code committee says the penalties were overlooked when the regulations were adopted.

The council will take up these recommendations from the code committee at its next meeting May 4.

Reach the author at dave@kdlg.org or 907.842.5281.