Loveland City Council approves plan to increase maximum City Court fine to $2,650 – Loveland Reporter-Herald
Asked to make adjustments to the maximum fine that Loveland City Court can impose on someone convicted of a charge, city council members had divisive views on Tuesday night.
Some approved of increasing the $1,000 maximum to the maximum allowed by the state — currently $2,650.
Councilor Andrea Samson said she thought it would be too steep for people of lower economic means.
A citizen also addressed the council via Zoom. Linda Rosa told councilors it would be a hardship for some people in the city, where the poverty rate is approaching 9%.
It’s not a crime to be poor, but the actions they take are what people are judged on, councilor Dana Foley said.
Judge Geri Joneson spoke to advisers, telling them about the thousands of sentences she has handed down over the past seven years. She thought she only imposed the maximum about 10 times.
She said the City Court hears cases of misdemeanors such as theft, shoplifting, disorderly conduct, trespassing, public drinking, and underage drinking or marijuana use.
Joneson said judges need to have options when it comes to sentencing, and if they’re too restricted they’re “chained in,” which she sometimes felt.
Councilman Steve Olson said economic status and race are not considered in court, where the judge weighs the evidence, not the defendant’s background.
Asked by Mayor Jacki Marsh about the number of women and people of color appearing in court, Joneson said she doesn’t consider those factors in making her decisions.
Like it or not, women earn less, people of color earn less, Marsh said.
The possibility of hiring a defense team to defend against misdemeanor charges can be more stressful for them, she said.
“The pressure to accept a plea deal is greater for someone with a low income,” she said.
Fines can be imposed per offense, so someone convicted of more than one charge could face higher costs, she said.
Councilors also heard a proposal from Foley who wanted to make another change to the court fee order – one to add $5 to the $10 surcharge charged to people.
A third of the money raised by the surcharge goes to alternative sentencing programs, and Foley said he wants to increase that funding pool.
This potential change will be reviewed when the matter comes back to Council for second reading approval.
The motion to increase the maximum fee and adjust the maximum jail term the municipal judge can impose to 364 days was approved at first reading by a vote of 7 to 2, with Marsh and Samson opposing it.