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For Immediate Release

Date: 04/08/11

Rep. Michael Willette Presents Bill to Assess Convicted Criminals the Cost of Police Work

AUGUSTA - State Rep. Michael Willette (R-Presque Isle) today presented legislation to help counties and municipalities recover part of the cost of police action when a defendant is found guilty of felony or misdemeanor crimes and OUI offenses.

His bill, LD 667, would establish a Municipal and County Reimbursement Fee of $100, to be assessed on top of fines, fees and surcharges, which currently are all paid to the State of Maine.

"Counties and municipalities do not receive any portion of the decreed payments with the exception of the jails," Rep. Willette said in testimony before the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. "My position is that municipal and county entities should also be reimbursed for citizen services being absorbed by those involved in criminal activity, just like the state."

As an example, he cited the cost of an OUI. "There's an average of four man hours spent on the stop, field sobriety testing, processing and report writing," he said. "To average an officer's pay in Presque Isle at $18 an hour, that is $72 for that arrest. If the driver can't make bail, that is a three hour round-trip to the Aroostook County jail at $54. When in court, we are obligated to pay the officer for three hours of court time at another $54, for a total cost of $180 for that arrest. Burglary, drug and sundry other major crimes cost much more because of the labor intensiveness involved."

Rep. Willette said Presque Isle would have received about $80,000 in 2009 if the municipality had been entitled to collect $100 each for the 90 OUIs and 711 persons charged with court-adjudicated crimes. He added that there should be no municipal or county surcharge for any civil charges under the traffic code or other civil infractions. "What we're talking about is basically restitution and reimbursement for the time away from public safety," he said. "The motive behind this is that the taxpayer is already paying enough, so let the guilty pay."

Rep. Willette supplied the committee with supporting testimony from Detective Wayne Selfridge of the Presque Isle Police Department. "In my 16 years in Maine law enforcement I have been concerned at the high costs of funding municipal and county police and sheriffs' departments," he wrote. "I speak from municipal experience where the budget for local departments comes directly from the jurisdiction's taxpayers. At the same time I have witnessed court fines and surcharges increase with none of that reimbursing the municipality or county that brought the criminal case to the justice of our courts."

LD 667 has bipartisan co-sponsorship support. The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee has scheduled a work session on the bill for April 15. ###

Jay Finegan
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445