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AGO 1953 No. 480 - February 11, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

DISTRIBUTION OF FINES IMPOSED AND COLLECTED FOR TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS.

Fines imposed and collected for traffic violations of the state traffic laws in the justice court or superior court must be distributed pursuant to the provisions of chapter 75, Laws of 1949.

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                                                                February 11, 1953 

Honorable Donald H. Webster, Director
Bureau of Governmental Research andServices
University of Washington
266 J. Allen Smith Hall
Seattle 5, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 480

 Dear Sir:

             We have your letter dated January 26, 1953, requesting an opinion of 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  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] 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.

             "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  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] 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?

             "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?"

             It is our conclusion that your questions 1, 2 and 6 must be answered in the affirmative.  Questions 3 and 4 also require an affirmative answer, not because the statute specifically requires it, but rather to furnish an essential ingredient of the proof required for conviction and the information essential to the distribution of the funds as required by law.

             In response to your fifth question, it is our conclusion that an officer may elect to charge an individual either with a violation of state laws or city ordinances when the offense is committed within the corporate limits of a city or town.

                                                                      ANALYSIS

             RCW 47.08.030 as derived from chapter 75, of the Laws of 1949, controls the distribution of fines and forfeitures accruing from violations of the state highway code.  The cited statute 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  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] 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."

             Traffic tickets and citations indicate the place the violation occurred in relation to the corporate limits of a city or town.  This is essential in order for the arresting officer to be able to prove the fact of violation.  Thus, the information contained on the citation or ticket which the arresting officer records primarily to enable him to sustain the burden of proof in court, serves the additional function of advising the court how to dispose of the funds properly in the event of a bail forfeiture.

             The statute cited, supra, is clear and unambiguous.  However, a state patrolman or sheriff may elect to charge an individual with the violation of a municipal ordinance, rather than the state law, for a traffic offense committed within the corporate limits of a city or town.  If this election is made, RCW 47.08.030 has no application unless this section of the code has been incorporated into the municipal traffic ordinance, which is unlikely.  The case is tried in the municipal police court and most municipal traffic ordinances provide that all fines and forfeitures are payable into the city treasury in their entirety.  If the officer elects to charge the driver with a violation under the state law, it is incumbent upon the justice court or the superior court to indicate precisely the locus of the violation with respect to the corporate limits of a particular city or town in order that the county treasurer may remit the funds to the appropriate recipients as required by law.

             Insofar as any prior opinions of this office are in conflict with the opinions expressed herein, they are hereby overruled.

 Very truly yours,
DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General 

ANDY ENGEBRETSEN
Assistant Attorney General

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