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RACINE — The passage of the City Council’s controversial marijuana directive was a topic of debate between city and law enforcement officials last year, and its implementation has not been without hiccups, including confusion on fine amounts.

The directive, which was approved by the City Council in December, forces the Racine Police Department to issue citations for first-time marijuana possession offenses under 25 grams instead of referring criminal charges to the county District Attorney’s office.

At a meeting in February, City Attorney Scott Letteney stated that he issued an email on Jan. 17 to the City Council and Racine Police Chief Art Howell, formally notifying Howell of the directive.

Alderman John Tate II of the 3rd District originally wanted to set the forfeiture for those citations at $1 plus court costs. But in early April, after a long debate, the Council set the forfeiture total in the amount of $75, plus court costs, officially putting the directive into place.

Since April 1, Racine Police have issued 18 marijuana citations, according to city records requested by The Journal Times. The citations were issued between May 13 and July 25.

The total costs, including court fees, for each of the 18 citations are set at two amounts — $155.50 and $344.50.

When The Journal Times asked why some of the fees were $189 higher than others, City Attorney Scott Letteney said the discrepancy between the fees was due to the use of the old fee schedule instead of the new one. Letteney said that someone on his staff brought the issue to his attention toward the end of last week.

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“I imagine the word didn’t get to the Police Department in time,” Letteney said.

In an email, Racine Police Chief Art Howell said that the fine was officially updated sometime in late May/early June. He said an in-house notification of the change went out to Racine Police officers on June 3.

Twelve of the 18 individuals cited were charged incorrectly at the higher rate, records show.

Marijuana Citations by the Numbers, April 2019-July 2019

Letteney said he spoke to the municipal court clerk last week and the municipal judge Monday. “It is my understanding that the court will amend any judgments of conviction for citations issued after the effective date of the ordinance, correcting the amount of the forfeiture and statutory costs, i.e., a total of $155.50,” Letteney said in an email.

A municipal ordinance allowing for marijuana citations rather than charges had been in place since 1990, but officers were given discretion to either issue a citation or request state charges for first-time offenses. The new directive took away that discretion.

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Christina Lieffring contributed to this report.

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Reporter

Alyssa Mauk covers breaking news and courts. She enjoys spending time with her family, video games, heavy metal music, watching YouTube videos, comic books and movies.

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