Possible changes include moving to an administrative process, demobilizing habitual violators’ vehicles
Currently, Lawrence Municipal Court may issue arrest warrants for unpaid parking tickets. That could change as the City of Lawrence is considering moving to a new process to handle parking violations.
The city is also considering other options for habitual violators, including demobilization of vehicles.
Under the proposed changes, people would no longer be required to show up to court to appeal citations or for notices to appear, according to the city’s website about the project. Notice to appear violations can’t be appealed online under current procedures, and defendants must attend the municipal court parking docket, which is held at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Resolving parking tickets and appeals on a civil or administrative level would alleviate the court’s workload and provide a friendlier experience for community members and visitors, according to the city’s website. People could pay or appeal citations online or by mail.
Lawrence city commissioners in recent years have asked city staff to look at ways to decriminalize poverty. Traffic violations that are punished by fees or fines generally have a disproportionate impact on people who are financially stressed. In addition, some people may face more barriers than others to make it to court in the middle of the afternoon.
The city’s project will also include an analysis to determine what percentage of outstanding fines are owed by habitual violators. The website states that the city doubling fines to $10 from $5 in April 2021 has “done little to curb the number of people parking illegally.”
“Parking dockets allow offenders to make in-person void requests to the judge or prosecutor to contest parking violations. However, criminal complaints are currently the only recourse for compelling habitual violators to pay outstanding violations,” according to the website. “This is a time-consuming procedure for Municipal Court staff and requires the defendant to appear in-person at a future court date.”
Non-criminal alternatives such as secondary collections, vehicle demobilization or offset programs — pursuing money out of people’s tax refunds by going through the state — are possibilities the city is considering. But one of the project’s goals is to promote equity, according to the website.
“This involves conducting a thorough analysis of fines, fees, and collection policies to ensure they are fair, reasonable, and proportionate,” the website states. “The project team will assess the impact of parking violations on different segments of the community and explore measures to address any disproportional impacts.”
The city will hold two meetings to discuss the project and listen to feedback from residents:
• An in-person community meeting is set for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 2 at the Lawrence Public Library auditorium, 707 Vermont St.
• A virtual meeting is set for 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 14; click here to join the Zoom meeting.
For those who have existing parking citations, “We are evaluating options for a parking citation amnesty program,” according to the website. “This may allow you to reduce or resolve your outstanding parking citations with a donation to local non-profit organizations.”
In the meantime, now through Aug. 20, Lawrence Municipal Court will cancel $50 of parking or traffic citation fees in exchange for $15 worth of new school supplies. Read more about that at this link.
The city is planning to release an online survey next month. Read more about the project at lawrenceks.org/community-engagement/parking-enforcement.