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Don’t do time for the crime, pay the fine

The Los Angeles city seal.
The Los Angeles city seal.
Kansas Sebastian/Flickr (cc by_nc_nd)

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Noisy neighbors, barking dogs, construction without permits, public safety violations — these are just some of the wide-ranging criminal offenses that fall under the Los Angeles municipal code.

Violation usually leads to criminal charges and court dates, followed by a bureaucracy of filings, hearings and appeals.

Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich thinks there’s a better, quicker way to handle these so-called “nuisance” crimes: Decriminalize many of the violations, and instead have police issue administrative citations, like parking tickets.

Speaking with KPCC's Larry Mantle on Tuesday, Assistant City Attorney Jane Usher agreed.

“You can imagine the volumes of code enforcement cases that are currently sitting on our desks. I’d rather issue them a ticket or even a second ticket if need be and get some movement and hopefully, the goal, get compliance,” he said.

The Administrative Citation Enforcement program, supporters say, could result in quicker, cleaner resolution of cases, less clogged courtrooms and prosecutorial expense. They also say the city could benefit from the fines imposed, rather than the state, which collects revenues from criminal offenses.

Critics say the program could deny due process to city residents.

The city’s Budget and Finance Committee met yesterday to review the proposal, which is under consideration.


Is City Hall prepared to take on a new system? Would the threat of a fine – rather than jail time – be enough to deter your next-door neighbor from building his fence too high? Or might people factor the cost of a fine into their behavior – and just keep throwing those annoying house parties? Do you support decriminalizing nuisance crimes?


Jane Usher, Special Assistant City Attorney with the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office