City Error Results in Improper Traffic Sentences in Cleveland

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson speaks with reporters about a city omission that led to improper traffic sentences.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson speaks with reporters about a city omission that led to improper traffic sentences. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
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For the past 11 months, a number of defendants in traffic cases received sentences higher than allowed under Cleveland code, city officials said Wednesday.

In May of last year, the city did a routine update of its traffic codes. But during that process, the administration did not take an important step.

“We failed, meaning us, failed to send to council the second piece of legislation that should have been passed,” Mayor Frank Jackson said. 

That piece would have specified penalties for street racing, placing obstructions in the road, driving under suspension and other offenses. The maximum penalty could have carried a 180-day jail sentence and $1,000 fine. 

Instead, because of that mistake, those offenses should have been treated as minor misdemeanors—carrying only a $150 fine.

But judges have been giving the higher sentences they’re used to handing out.

So far, the court has freed five people who were sent to jail under these circumstances, Judge Charles Patton said.

Officials are trying to find others who were improperly fined or jailed. The city is asking council to pass the measure that would restore the old sentences.

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