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AGO 1952 No. 419 - October 17, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

DISTRIBUTION OF FINES IMPOSED AND COLLECTED FOR TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS.

Fines imposed and collected for traffic violations must be distributed pursuant to the provisions of chapter 75, Laws of 1949.

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                                                                October 17, 1952

Honorable Donald H. Webster, Director
Bureau of Governmental Research andService
University of Washington
266 J. Allen Smith Hall
Seattle 5, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 419

 Dear Sir:

             We have your letter of September 29, 1952, requesting an opinion from this office on the following questions:

             "1. Is the distribution of traffic fines and forfeitures collected for violation of the state traffic laws prosecuted either in the Justice Court or in the Superior Court based upon thelocation of the traffic violation rather than thelocation of the Court?

             "2. If a violation of state traffic law occurswithin the corporate limits of a city or town and is prosecuted in the Justice Court or in the Superior Court, is the fine or forfeiture collected by the Justice Court or the Superior Court for such violation to be distributed as follows:  One‑half to the city street fund for the construction and maintenance of city streets, one‑fourth to the state fund for the support of state parks and parkways, and one‑fourth to the highway safety fund.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "3. In order to carry out the mandate of Ch. 75, Laws, 1949, are both state and county officers, their deputies, and members of their staff required to indicate on traffic tickets at the time of their issuance whether the violation occurred within the corporate limits of a municipality, and if so, to write the name of the city or town on the traffic ticket in which the violation occurred; and if not, to indicate that the violation occurred in an unincorporated area?

             "4. Is it incumbent upon the Justice Court or the Superior Court in which the violation is prosecuted to determine whether the violation occurred within the corporate limits of a city or town or in an unincorporated area in order that when the traffic fines and forfeitures are remitted to the County Treasurer, the court may indicate whether the violation occurred within the corporate limits of a city or town, and if so, in what city or town, or in an unincorporated area so that the distribution thereof may be accomplished as required by Ch. 75, Laws, 1949?

             "5. When either a state officer (including his deputies or members of his staff) or a county officer (including his deputies or members of his staff) arrests a person for a traffic violation occurring within the corporate limits of a city or town, is the state officer (or his deputies or staff members) or county officer (or his deputies or staff members) obliged to prosecute such a person only for a violation of state law in either the Justice Court or the Superior Court, or may the state officer (or his deputies or staff members) or county officer (or his deputies or staff members) elect to prosecute the violator for a violation of the applicable city or town ordinance in the Police Court of the city or town in which the violation occurred?

              [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "6. Assuming a city or town has not adopted Ch. 75, Laws, 1949, by reference or otherwise, would all of the fines and forfeitures collected by a Police Court for violations of a traffic ordinance of a city or town be paid into the city or town treasury in their entirety?"

             The answer to your first question is yes; to your second question yes; to your fifth question yes; and the answer to questions three and four is likewise yes, with the explanation, however, that while there is no direct mandate, the traffic tickets issued by the respective officers provide for designation of the location where the violation occurs and the question of whether it is within or without the corporate limits of a city or town is a matter of proof or evidence which must be submitted and is usually submitted during the trial.  The answer to question six is that the state law governs.

                                                                      ANALYSIS

             Chapter 75 of the Laws of 1949, RCW 47.08.030 specifically designates how the fines shall be divided and is the controlling law.  The wording of this law insofar as a division of fines is concerned is the same as it was in previous enactments.  The statute which reads as follows:

             "All fines and forfeitures collected for violations of this title when the violation occurred outside of any city or town shall be paid into the proper funds for the following purposes:  One‑half shall be paid into the county road fund of the county in which the violation occurred; one‑fourth into the state fund for the support of state parks and parkways; and one‑fourth into the highway safety fund.

             "All fines and forfeitures collected for violations of this title when the violation occurred inside any city or town shall be distributed and paid into the proper funds for the following purposes:  One‑half shall be paid into the city street fund of such city or town for the construction and maintenance of city streets; one‑fourth into the state fund for the support of state parks and parkways; and one‑fourth into the highway safety fund."

              [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            is clear and unambiguous and can only be construed one way.  When the violation occurs outside a city or town "one‑half shall be paid into the county road fund of the county in which the violation occurred; one‑fourth into the state fund for the support of state parks and parkways; and one‑fourth into the highway safety fund."  When the violation occurs inside any city or town and, (that means city limits or corporate limits), the fund shall be divided "one‑half shall be paid into the city street fund of such city or town for the construction and maintenance of city streets; one‑fourth into the state fund for the support of state parks and parkways; and one‑fourth into the highway safety fund."

             All traffic tickets or citations that we have knowledge of‑-state, county, city and town‑-have a place on said ticket for the designation of the location wherein the violation occurred.  The question of whether it occurs within or without the corporate limits of a city or town is a matter of proof.  We know of no court which would convict any individual for violation of any traffic law, rule or regulation, unless there was proof that the violation has occurred and evidence as to where it occurred.  When making an arrest, an officer has the privilege of electing whether to charge the individual with the violation of state laws or city ordinances when the offense is committed within the limits of a city or town.  The fact that some towns may not have any ordinances does not relieve the offender from being charged under the state laws, since the state laws are the ones that govern.

             The statute above quoted being clear and unambiguous and not calling for any construction, requires all fines imposed, forfeited or collected to be divided in certain ways and since the division is based on where the offense occurs, it is proper to assume that the location of the offense is the one that governs and not the place of trial.

 Very truly yours,
SMITH TROY
Attorney General 

RUDOLPH NACCARATO
Assistant Attorney General

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