By Steve Capps
For the Star-Gazette
Beardstown Mayor Steve Patterson wants to keep minor offenses committed in the city off the criminal records of the offenders while generating additional revenue for the town. Patterson proposed a new ordinance which reduces certain offenses from criminal misdemeanor charges to city ordinance violations.
“It’s called a first offender ordinance,” Patterson said. “It gives the officer the discretion to charge someone, say a minor drinking, with a violation of a city ordinance instead of writing them a misdemeanor ticket and sending them to the county where they would get a fine and lose their drivers license. Something like that stays on the record and causes a lot of problems for them in the future. This way the officer can issue a citation and they will have 14 days to pay the fine. If they don’t pay we can send the charges on to the county. If they do pay it stays off their record, they keep their license, and the city gets the fine money.”
“I don’t know if I agree with the discretion part,” said Alderman Kennia Erickson. “It’s a short step from discretion to discrimination.”
“I agree,” said Police Chief Roy Hurst. “If we are going to do this, it needs to be done every time. It is the only way to avoid the appearance of favoritism.”
Offenses which would be eligible for participation in the program include, misdemeanor assault and battery, endangerment, disorderly conduct, underage drinking, possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Fines for these offenses would range from $350-$1000. Offenders who cannot afford the fees may elect to perform community service in lieu of payment. Each hour of community service will be credited as $25 toward the fee.
The proposal was received by the city council in committee. It must be placed on the agenda of a future council meeting before it can be voted on.