On Thursday evening Dane County Supervisors considered two ordinances reducing county fines for possession of small amounts to $10 and $1.
The $10 ordinance, sponsored by Sup. Sheila Stubbs, 2014 OA-65, reduced fines to $10 plus court costs for amounts less than 25 grams but could only be used for the first offense.
Sup. John Hendrick of Madison introduced a substitute ordinance which further reduced the fine to $1 plus costs. In discussion, Hendrick laid out his proposal noting that Dane County voters had voted in favor of cannabis legalization when the Board placed an advisory referendum on county ballots in April 2014.
VIDEO: Sup. Hendrick explains his substitute ordinance.
Hendrick’s version is based on provisions of state legislation, 2013 Wisconsin Act 293, and has a broader focus. It would be available in all cities, villages and towns and could apply to first offenses of small amounts (25 grams) and to larger amounts unless a criminal complaint is filed and to subsequent offenses unless a criminal complaint is filed.
A number of supervisors including Stubbs expressed support of the $10 fine or going lower but had concerns about Hendrick’s ordinance and the district attorney not being consulted. Others including former assistant district attorney Tim Kiefer expressed support. Sup. Pan pointed out that if the substitute ordinance were passed that there would be immediate benefits from being able to be used for larger amounts and subsequent offenses.
Despite great points from Supervisors Hendrick, Pan, Kiefer and Wegleitner, the substitute amendment was voted down 21-10 on a roll call vote requested by Hendrick.
VIDEO: Roll call vote on Sup. Hendrick’s substitute ordinance.
Stubbs then offered an amendment to reduce the fine before costs to $1 to her original ordinance which the board passed on a voice vote.
Sup. Tim Kiefer, a former assistant district attorney and now a criminal defense attorney explained that the $1 fine still means $114.50 costs plus $1 fine in actual costs for total amount due of $115.50. Sup. Ruskin explained they explored ways in the Criminal Justice Council to waive costs too so it would be without costs but haven’t figured out a way to do so. Sup. Kiefer then noted judges can “remit” court costs to waive them.
The board then passed the amended ordinance with the reduced $1 fine with a voice vote. Supervisors will likely be further exploring Sup. Hendricks proposal in committee and revisiting it after it is vetted with the district attorney’s office.