Warning or ticket? It depends
Discretion plays a big role in whether area law enforcement officers give a motorist a warning or citation.
“Issued a warning” is a common refrain in police reports the Record obtains and publishes each week. Many factors, including whether a motorist has committed other infractions, come into play, police and sheriff’s officers say.
Marion and Hillsboro police and the Marion County sheriff’s office shed light on choosing to issue warnings or citations. Peabody is without a chief and has one full-time officer. No one from that department weighed in for this story.
Undersheriff Larry Starkey typically gives motorists a warning for speeding less than 20 mph over the limit.
Some motorists traveling in Marion County have a lead foot. A sheriff’s deputy clocked a driver of a black sedan Sept. 1 going 109 mph — 64 mph over the speed limit — during a six-mile-long chase along Kanza Rd. to 290th Rd.
In August, a 16-year-old rural Hillsboro resident got up to 90 mph during a chase along D St. after a fight in Memorial Park.
Starkey said he would write a ticket if a speeding motorist also is driving on an expired license, didn’t have proof of insurance, or had violated other traffic laws.
Warnings always are oral for Starkey.
“If I’m going to write a ticket, I’ll just write a ticket,” he said.
Hillsboro chief Jessey Hiebert tries to give warnings when possible “and give the violator an opportunity to make corrective driving actions.”
If, however, “it is a local person and they don’t change their driving habits, we will come across them again, and then they will get written up,” Hiebert said.
“Personally, some stops I make, a warning is not an option,” he said.
Stops surrounding issues such as no driver’s license, revoked driver’s license, suspended driver’s license, expired driver’s license, no insurance, extreme speeds, or any driving violation that creates a danger to the public are usually written up as a citation, he said.
Public safety— not generating revenue for the city by writing tickets — is what matters, Hiebert said.
“The goal with any warning or citation is to correct the issue that generated the stop in the first place, which results in greater public safety,” he said.
For the first six months of this year, Hillsboro officers made 104 traffic stops. They issued 53 citations and 51 warnings.
Marion chief Clinton Jeffrey agreed that “every officer is different” about warnings and citations.
Some officers, he said, “have a hard number for speed” that results in a ticket.
The department tracks warnings, both written and oral.
Marion officers wrote 196 citations in 2019, 66 in 2020, 159 in 2021, and 73 through September of this year.
Those citations covered speeding, not having proof of insurance, licensing problems, non-working equipment, parking violations, and other traffic violations, as well as dog violations, and possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.
Officers issued 399 warnings in 2019, 249 in 2020, 374 in 2021, and 340 through September.
Speeding was the reason for 50 citations in 2019, 19 in 2020, 84 in 2021, and 30 through September.