ASK THE ADVOCATE: Limit on traffic fine revenue?

Are there statutes regarding the maximum proportion of a municipality’s income that may be derived from fines collected for traffic violations? If so, how is compliance with those statutes monitored and enforced? Are there provisions for requesting an audit of a municipality that has an inordinately active police presence on its most target-rich thoroughfares, or that charges heavy fines for the most inconsequential violations?

Former state Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston, introduced legislation in 2008 to set limits on local municipalities’ revenue from traffic violations. The bill died, and Downs is no longer in the Legislature.

Frank Bruscato, a staff attorney for the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, said “there appears to be no statutory limit on ‘the maximum proportion of a municipality’s income that may be derived from fines collected for traffic violations.’” He also said there appear to be no provisions for requesting an audit when municipalities concentrate police on “target-rich thoroughfares” or charge steep fines for minor violations.

However, state law does require fines and penalties collected by local law enforcement for speed violations of less than 10 miles an hour on an interstate highway to go to the state treasury.

Bruscato said his office does have a database for allegations of wrongdoing. He said complaints also can be made to Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office.

Send questions to Ask The Advocate, P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-0588; or fax to Ask The Advocate, (225) 388-0297; or email asktheadvocate@theadvocate.com.