The University of Wisconsin Police Department is entering a pilot program that will reduce ticket costs for students who are cited off-campus for underage drinking, possession of false identification and disorderly conduct.
UWPD and the Madison Common Council approved an agreement Nov. 5 to enter a pilot program that will transfer off-campus citations from the Dane County Circuit Court to the Madison Municipal Court, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. The pilot will launch either December or January and will run until Nov. 1, 2020.
UWPD-issued citations that occur on campus will still be processed in state-level court because the university is state property, municipal court Judge Dan Koval said.
Koval worked with UWPD, the mayor, city council members, the Office of the City Attorney and the Madison Police Department to gain support and form this pilot program, Alder Michael Verveer said.
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The city council passed a resolution for the program by a unanimous vote, Verveer said.
Verveer said the pilot program would benefit students because tickets will be cheaper and could help their future employment chances. Citations filed in a circuit court can easily be found online by potential employers, while citations filed in Madison’s Municipal Court can’t be accessed online, Verveer said.
“You literally have to go to the Madison Municipal Court office and ask the clerk if there are any records for the person,” Verveer said.
UWPD spokesperson Marc Lovicott said this pilot will create an “even playing field” because UPWD officers can write citations like MPD officers. Currently, UWPD officers can only write state citations and administrative code citations. MPD officers technically are not allowed by state statutes to write citations on-campus, Lovicott said.
Koval said the tickets are more expensive in circuit court because the process includes mandatory fees that the municipal court does not have, due to a different process.
Underage alcohol consumption tickets for those between the ages of 17-20 cost $187 in municipal court and $263.50 in circuit court. Fake identification tickets cost $439 in municipal court and $515.50 in circuit court, Koval said.
The majority of UWPD’s citations are issued for underage drinking, possession of false identification and disorderly conduct, Lovicott said.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, in 2018, UWPD issued 549 underage drinking citations, 397 on campus and 152 off campus. 27 citations were issued on campus for false identification, with seven off campus. 32 citations were issued for disorderly conduct on campus, and six were issued off campus.
The purpose of the program is to provide consistency in the court system, Koval said.
“It’s good in the matter of consistency to have these cases heard in the same court system instead of having them spread out,” Koval said. “The goal is to … have them heard in one court.”
Municipal court has access to a lot of resources to help students who have issues with alcohol, Koval said. It’s usually easier to get these resources and community service options in municipal court rather than circuit court, he said.
The pilot program requires a modification to the court software that will cost $10,069. A $2,000 fee has to be paid every year the program is extended, municipal court Clerk Christie Zamber said in an email to The Badger Herald.
It is expected the city will see between 150 and 200 additional citations per year, resulting in a $4,950 to $6,600 yearly increase in court costs, which are retained by the municipal court, according to the resolution.
There will not be a significant cost to the municipal court to take on the cases, Koval said.
“There were approximately 165 citations issued in 2018,” Zamber wrote. “If you assume an average forfeiture base amount of $100 per citation and $33 court costs, we could potentially receive $16,500 in general revenue and $5,445 in municipal court costs respectively.”
The municipal court will not take on new staff, but will add the citations to their regular case load, Koval said.
The pilot will be evaluated next year and may be renewed if it’s deemed successful, Koval said. The program may be expanded to include other off-campus citations issued by UWPD.
Koval said the program will be evaluated to see if there are disproportionate impacts. This includes looking at the demographic receiving citations and if there is a demographic that is receiving more citations.