Police to apply lesser charge in crosswalk stings

Violators face smaller fine, no possibility of jail time

Howard County

November 07, 2003|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Howard County police plan to use a law that carries a less stringent penalty to charge people caught in crosswalk stings, officials said this week.

Instead of using the crosswalk law, police will impose negligent driving charges on violators who fail to stop for a plainclothes officer crossing on the marked pavement, county police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.

The negligent driving citation allows violators to pay a $270 fine without appearing in court and carries no jail time, Llewellyn and a local lawyer said.

In contrast, a person charged under the crosswalk law must go to court and face a maximum penalty of two months in jail and a maximum fine of $500.

Police Chief Wayne Livesay made the change Monday after reviewing the county's crosswalk enforcement program, which has resulted in about 75 citations since the beginning of the year, Llewellyn said.

"As the chief learned about the law and spoke to the officers conducting the operations, he really just didn't feel comfortable with the must-appear requirement ... and the potential for jail time," she said.

Howard's crosswalk enforcement program is one of several across the state that has targeted motorists over the past few years using federal grant money distributed through the Maryland State Highway Administration.

Lawyers and other judicial officials have said they were surprised to discover that failing to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk carried possible jail time.

One state delegate, Joseph C. Boteler III of Baltimore County, said recently that he plans to introduce legislation that would bring the penalty in line with speeding violations.

The required court appearance and potential penalty led some alleged violators to hire lawyers to help them fight the charge.

Columbia lawyer Terrence C. McAndrews, who has handled a few crosswalk cases in the county, applauded Howard police yesterday for making the change. His clients have had to worry about attorneys' fees and the possibility of a serious motor vehicle conviction, he said.

"I'm just sorry my clients have had to go through what they've gone through," he said. " ... I'm sorry it took [the department] so long, but I'm happy they're going to do it."

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