Jail time looms for offenders
There will be a new tool in the box for the Baldwin City Police Department in enforcing laws. It's jail time.
In the past, any charges which involved possible sentences with jail time were turned over to Douglas County District Court. But, there's been an effort in the recent past to beef up Baldwin City Municipal Court to handle more revenue-producing cases involving fines.
The next step in that process was getting an agreement with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office to house those convicted here with jail sentences. That was approved by the county commission Monday morning ahead of the city council's meeting Monday night.
Council members discussed the proposal, which would cost the city $46.19 a day for each day in jail. They asked Police Chief Mike McKenna for his input on making the move.
"This is something I have not wanted to say in a public meeting," said McKenna. "We can fine people, but we could not put you in jail. Actually, all we are doing by adopting this is stepping up to the table.
"If you'll agree to move forward, this will give us another tool in our toolbox to enforce the law in Baldwin City," he said.
City Attorney Matt Hoy echoed the sentiment.
"What we've got now is a municipal judge who can't impose sentences of jail time because we don't have anywhere to put them," said Hoy.
Council Member Ken Wagner was concerned that the change would end up costing the city money.
"I'm supportive of this, but I don't want to get ourselves in trouble with it money wise," said Wagner.
He pointed to sentences of 90 days for driving under the influence convictions. Those are normally for third- and fourth-time offenders, he was told.
"What we're seeing is a lot of first-time DUI offenders and those are normally handled with diversion," said McKenna. "Under this, we'd be able to take first-time offenders through municipal court. The second- and third-time offenders have to go through district court."
"Keep in mind, muncipal court handles misdemeanor crime, not felony crime," said Hoy. "All this would do is add a sentencing tool."
With that, the council unanimously approved the plan.
"I personally think if the city staff and the police chief want this, I'm all for it," said Wagner. "We've also got a 15-day clause to get out of it."
"I want to take the economics out of it," said Council member Tony Brown. "If this is what the police and municipal court want, we should do it."