Local Judge questions parking policy
City leaders are hoping to change the way parking violations are handled, but the idea is raising many questions.
City Manager Carlos Villarreal says the Municipal Court is over burdened by ticket violations so much that it's taking time away from dealing with other violations that are more important.
An introductory ordinance proposes that traffic violations now be considered civil violations and not criminal, and that for some, is raising the question of justice.
Appealing a parking ticket may mean putting some money up front if a current ordinance is changed by City officials.
City leaders say the number of parking tickets are putting a large burden on the Municipal Court keeping them from concentrating on other violations like DWI's and assaults.
In the proposal, parking violations would be considered as civil cases, and anyone wanting to appeal would have to pay a court fee upfront.
“It’s not going to be a presumption of guilt. We want to make sure that those who are really wanting to appeal do go through a process and not try to play games with the Municipal Court system,” says City Manager Carlos Villarreal.
City officials say the change will bring structure to the system, but some wonder if justice will be served.
“It's just going to be civil. It's the opposite. The City already says you committed it unless you prove it,” says Judge Alfonso Ornelas.
Municipal Court Judge Ornelas says assigning a hearing officer and asking people to pay to appeal is like automatically assuming they're guilty.
“I think there's too much pressure. You have a City Manager who wants to collect revenues and wants to make sure he's making the budget. What are your chances?”
But Villarreal says he doesn’t look to the Municipal Court to balance his budget. He just looks for ways to free the courts.
“We’re not denying justice. We think this will expedite justice and be able to have the Municipal Court concentrate on things that are more important to the public.”
Again, this is still a proposal.
More hearings will be held at the next City Council meetings before a final decision is made.