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Jul 29, 2009 12:51 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Councilwoman wants to crack down on owners of vehicles cited for violations

Jul 29, 2009 12:51 PM

In a move to enhance public safety and increase revenues, Southampton Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst is proposing a pair of local laws, one that would crack down on owners of vehicles operated by unlicensed drivers, and another that would force certain entertainment establishments to pay for the police presence needed to keep the peace.

Ms. Throne-Holst has asked the town attorney’s office to incorporate her proposals into resolutions to be introduced before the Town Board.

According to Patrick Aube, the president of the Southampton Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, between 2,000 and 3,000 tickets per year are issued to drivers who are unlicensed. “It’s the number-one traffic infraction within the town,” Mr. Aube said. “But there is no penalty for those that own the car.”

That would change under Ms. Throne-Holst’s proposed local law, as her legislation would fine the owners of the vehicles up to $1,000. The councilwoman’s law also would mandate that the vehicle in question be impounded at a cost to the owner of $100 per day, not $25 per day, which is the current rate.

The PBA, Mr. Aube said, is supporting the councilwoman’s proposal.

“This would remove both the cars and drivers from the road,” Mr. Aube said, adding that when the owners come to retrieve their vehicles from the pound at the police department headquarters in Hampton Bays, they would be issued a ticket.

Because Ms. Throne-Holst is calling for a local law, the town would keep all of the revenue generated from the fines imposed on the owners as well as the money collected from impounding the vehicles. Currently, the state gets most of the revenue from tickets issued to unlicensed drivers, because driving without a license, or with a suspended license, is a state violation.

“The state gets all of the surcharges and keeps most of the fines,” said Renee Braithwaite, clerk of the town’s Justice Court. According to Ms. Braithwaite, for tickets issued to drivers without a license or with a suspended license, the town only keeps a $15 administrative fee. The rest of the money goes to the state, Ms. Braithwaite said, although she couldn’t give a specific breakdown as the fines imposed for traffic violations are set by individual judges on a case-by-case basis.

“This is a win-win for everybody,” Mr. Aube said. “You address a public safety issue, and you generate revenue for the town. I mean, do the math: some 2,000-plus violations times the $100 to $200 for the fines, and that’s not including the cost of retrieving the vehicles that were impounded. And the town keeps all of it.”

Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi, who said he is supporting Ms. Throne-Holst’s plan, said her local law would send a clear message to irresponsible vehicle owners. “We get an excessive number of these arrests with unlicensed drivers and it continues to be a problem here in town,” he said. “There needs to be more aggressive action.”

The majority of unlicensed drivers issued pulled over in Southampton, Mr. Aube said, are not the owners of the vehicles. “It’s clearly a mix of either parents who are away for the weekend and leave their keys hanging around and unlicensed teens taking the car, or it’s owners of companies allowing unlicensed workers to operate their vehicles,” he said.

According to Mr. Aube, a huge loophole exists in the state law for the owners who let unlawful drivers operate their cars, one that provides no recourse for Town Police. Ms. Throne-Holst’s initiative, Mr. Aube said, would close that loophole. As it is now written, the state law says that owners shall not “knowingly” let unlicensed drivers get behind the wheel of their vehicles. The councilwoman’s language, however, has no such ambiguity and simply puts the onus on the owners.

“If you don’t have your keys and you leave them hanging around, or are just giving them out, then you’re responsible for that vehicle,” Mr. Aube said. “So, unless you are willing to go to the district attorney’s office and tell them whoever was driving your vehicle stole it, then you’re going to be held accountable.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said the primary objective of her plan is public safety. “It doesn’t matter who is unlawfully behind the wheel, or why, or who owns the vehicle,” she said. “This is first and foremost about public safety.”

The councilwoman’s second proposal, if adopted, would require hot spots such as the Boardy Barn and Neptune Beach Club, both in Hampton Bays, to pay for the police presence necessary to maintain order there—something similar to what occurs when someone seeks a special event permit from the town.

“Part of the special event process,” Mr. Aube explained, “includes how much it costs for police. The individual seeking the permit pays the town for those costs and the town, in turn, pays the department.”

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I anticipate a 50% increase for the price of beer at the boardy barn.
By politcal pawn (121), Flanders on Jul 29, 09 6:17 PM
Better yet, let the establishments pay the officers time and half. Could any aspect of their jobs be worse than non-stop corraling of drunks?

And, why the taxpayers have been footing the bill for the extra police presence at private, profit driven clubs is a question that should be answered.

Of course, since the election is coming up, someone who is opposed to Ms. Throne-Holst as Town Supervisor will come up with an idiotic reason for oppsosing this measure, such as the clubs ...more
By CommonSense (71), Southampton on Jul 30, 09 10:34 AM
Hellooooo!! Can we say :Jail Time" to any idiot who drives without a license??? There are 2-3 thousand tickets a year??? And the police let the do what after getting a ticket - DRIVE AWAY!!! What the heck is wrong with that picture? Morons!
By LovedHerTown (132), southampton on Jul 31, 09 5:42 PM
Wow, is Anna Throne-Holst channeling Carolyn Zenk, who was always trying to come up with ways to stick it to The Boardy Barn when she was on the Town Board. (Hmmmm -- another female Democrat feeling the power!) That "local law" sounds like it would be an illegal one, since it's the povidence of NYS.

I don't know about what goes on down on Dune Road anymore, but I do know that the Boardy Barm has, for almost 40 years, spent a large sum of money on its own security people, and even has its ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Aug 1, 09 6:32 PM
Wasn't Representative Tim Bishop going to do something about this?

Or was that just one of his press releases?
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Aug 1, 09 6:34 PM
Vehicle Forfeiture is a bad idea, and will create more problems than it solves. It does, however, have a certain shallow political appeal.

WHAT COULD HAPPEN WITH THIS LAW:

Consider this: Junior gets a ticket and either forgets to go to court, or forgets to pay the fine. The dutiful court sends notice to the DMV and Junior's license is suspended. Friday night Junior is allowed to use the family car (to be home by 10:00 because these parents know where their children are). Junior ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Aug 5, 09 10:37 AM