City Ups fees for abandoning unwanted autos

Some assembly members say fines should be $1,000-plus

Posted: Tuesday, June 06, 2000

Abandon your junker anywhere in Juneau and it'll cost you a $295 fine -- and that's just for starters.

If you plead that you actually sold the car two weeks ago and just forgot to send the transfer form in to the Department of Motor Vehicles, that'll cost you another $295. And then the city will ask the judge to make you pay restitution for the cost of getting rid of the heap, which could amount to yet another $295.

``Forget to sign, pay a fine,'' said City Manager Dave Palmer as Juneau Assembly members voted unanimously Monday night to amend the city litter code to boost punishment for junk car abandonment.

Assembly member Jim Powell would rather see the fine at a thousand or two. ``I think you have to send a message,'' he said. ``And I think the ($295) fine is still not significant.''

Publishing convicted car abandoners' names in the newspaper might help boost public awareness of the problem, he said. ``People need to know that doing the right thing is also the right fiscal thing to do.''

The ordinance changes the definition of an abandoned vehicle to include vehicles left without permission on public property for 48 hours, and on private land for 24 hours.

The $295 figure reflects a longstanding state practice of considering anything above a $300 fine as -- if contested -- worthy of a jury trial and the possible assignment of a public defender, a fiscally imprudent thing to do, according to City Attorney John Corso.

Offenders looking at a $300 fine or less face a single judge and must make their own case or hire their own lawyer.

Assembly member Tom Garrett also thought $295 was piddling and instructed the city attorney to investigate the rationales behind the state's $300 cap and to inquire about lifting that cap.

An important hurdle to get over was tracking down vehicle owners, Garrett said. ``When we tried to find out who the owners were of all those cars at Kmart, we got an amazing number of stories.''

A Douglas woman claimed she had sold her car to a young man who since had left town, Garrett said, and whose telephone number was no longer in service. In another instance, a Kmart employee had worked there for a week, then left Juneau and abandoned his vehicle in the store's lot.

``This ordinance treats a lot of the frustrations of dealing with the issue of abandoned cars,'' Garrett said.

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