Shifting some traffic cases out of Minnesota courts as a cost savings measure

In many states traffic court is just that, a division of some court that hears traffic tickets and citations. In several states, however, traffic tickets are handled administratively, either by an administrative agency within the court or by a completely independent agency. Minnesota’s legislature has been debating moving towards the later for the last several years.

Minnesota’s current statute (169A.53) provides the current process for DWI cases: the driver is arrested and faces both criminal and civil sanctions. Among the civil penalties: driver’s license revocation and impoundment of the state issued license plate. Currently the civil side revocation/impoundment provisions allow for an appeal to the state’s trial court (District Court) however as a cost savings measure the state’s legislature has been debating a pilot program allowing appeals instead to the executive branch’s Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).

The first such iterations were introduced in 2010, both as part of packages of cost savings measures (HB 3449 / SB 3134 and HB 3607 / SB 3229) as well as a stand alone bill (HB 3479 / SB 3010). The House standalone bill was approved by the House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee but died in the House State & Local Government Committee.

The issue lay relatively dormant until this year when the bills were reintroduced as HB 858 / SB 416 and changed into a pilot project until 2016. The House version is pending in the Transportation Policy Committee while the Senate version is in the Judiciary Committee.