JACKSON, Wyo. — Public intoxication just got a little cheaper in Jackson Hole, but only after a lengthy discussion from the Jackson Town Council.
Councilmembers were presented with the question, “should the Town reduce the administrative fee for a person convicted of or receiving a deferred adjudication for public intoxication from $100 to $25?”
Currently, the town charges a $100 administrative fee for public intoxication convictions. Town staff suggested lowering the fee to $25, bringing the total amount due, including the fine, cost and fee, to $135. Currently, the total cost is $210, “which is relatively high compared to other offenses,” says the legal department for the town.
Three council members were present for the discussion. Vice Mayor Arne Jorgensen and Councilmember Jonathan Schechter were in the chambers. Councilmember Jessica Sell Chambers attended virtually.
During the meeting, Schechter asked Town Attorney, Lea Colasuonno, if the fees are arbitrary or in line with costs.
Colasuonno said that the original objective “was to help with some of the cost recovery. The counterpoint to that is that this is quite an expensive hefty bill for public intoxication.”
Sell Chambers discussed the cost public intoxication has on the community.
“It seems that even $100 is not really going to come close to covering all of the costs that these kinds of offenses cost the community, she said. “So maybe this is a larger conversation to be had but to me, it seems like we want to deter these kinds of offenses due to the damage that it does.”
“It seems somewhat arbitrary to drop it just because it seems kind of high. I am not in favor of dropping it, frankly, im in favor of increasing it.”
Following Sell Chambers’ comments, Vice Mayor Jorgensen said, “To me, I’m actually a little bit concerned that this provides a barrier, by definition. Many of the people that are engaging in our criminal system are those that are the least advantaged within our community. I want to be careful that we are not overcharging people that do not have the ability to pay.”
“We can all find stories where people will get into the criminal justice system and just the churn of that and those fees and end up significantly in debt as a result,” Jorgensen added. “The consequences of this [public intoxication] are significant but that is what the court system is for in terms of determining what kind of restitution and penalties are due. I don’t think the upfront administrative costs are the place to be doing that.”
“If we want to talk about systemic oppression we are going to have to go much further than these administrative fees,” Sell Chambers countered. “The cost to everyone is much greater. The bare minimum cost in these situations is much greater than $25.”
“You know im a huge fan of equity,” Sell Chambers added.
“The keyword in this is relative, as in this is high on a relative basis. If staff feels this is disproportionately high then I appreciate the effort to try to bring it into balance.” Shechter said.
The motion passed 2-1. Sell Chambers opposed it.
During the meeting, the Council unanimously approved another update for Title 1, adding standards for Town of Jackson municipal judges.
Municipal court fees can only be revised by ordinance, they are not allowed to be in resolutions. Staff will bring back a revised draft of Title 1 at a future meeting.
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