Municipal offenses in Fruita could carry stiffer penalties

Citizens who commit a municipal offense in Fruita could soon face heftier fines and longer probationary sentences under changes the City Council is considering.

Violators now face a maximum fine of $200 for noncriminal offenses, $500 for Class B offenses and $1,000 for Class A offenses, which constitute the most serious municipal crimes.

The municipal judge has the option of suspending a jail sentence or fine and placing someone on probation for up to 90 days.

Under the proposed changes, to be voted on March 16, the maximum fine for any municipal offense would be bumped up to $1,000, and a judge could sentence someone to probation for up to a year.

Fruita Police Chief Mark Angelo said the fine and probationary sentence schedules haven’t been changed in 10 and 16 years, respectively, and the current fines don’t cover municipal court costs. More of those costs could be passed along to violators under the amendments.

“It’s getting more and more expensive to do trials and hold court,” Angelo said. “There’s no reason why the taxpayers should be paying for that. This gives the court the ability to hold the defendant accountable for the process that we have to go through.”

The police chief said he also sees an opportunity for young offenders to be exposed to municipal court, which strives to balance punishment with education in an effort to correct behavior.

“It definitely creates more work for the courts, but again, we’re trying to start using what I see as the educational portion of the judicial system for these juveniles before sending them to county court or district court,” Angelo said.


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