Drivers who get nabbed for speeding or running a stop sign on private roads in St. Tammany Parish subdivisions will no longer have to go to misdemeanor court to pay their tickets under an ordinance the St. Tammany Parish Council adopted Thursday without dissent.
The council voted to standardize the fee for traffic infractions on private roads following a request from the Sheriff's Office. Previously, the law called for a fine of not more than $100 or a jail term of not more than 30 days, or both, at the court's discretion.
Because the law made the judge responsible for deciding the punishment, people had to go to misdemeanor court and appear before a judge instead of being able to pay their tickets online or at the Sheriff's Office.
The council set the penalty for traffic infractions on private streets at a flat $75 plus court costs. But the change affects only violations in about 18 subdivisions in unincorporated St. Tammany where the roads are private, Councilman Steve Stefancik, who sponsored the measure, said Friday.
The council is going to tackle traffic fines on parish roads next, he said. In some instances, traffic laws call for a range of fines, for example from $100 to $300. That, too, requires an appearance in misdemeanor court so the judge can set the amount.
Tiffany Carrasco, chief deputy over the Sheriff's Office's civil division, said her agency requested the change in the interest of efficiency.
As it stands now, she said, people have to take a day off work just to pay a traffic ticket. They join a crowd waiting to take a turn before the judge presiding over misdemeanor court.
Stefancik said there's often such a large number that people can't find a seat in the courtroom and have to wait outside.
The change in penalties for tickets on public streets will likely be introduced at the March 1 council meeting and voted on April 5.