April 3, 2001
Honorable R. Thomas Wagner, Jr.
Auditor of Accounts
Office of Auditor of Accounts
Thomas Collins Building
Dover, DE 19901 D370A
RE: Collection of Speeding Violation Fines
Dear Mr. Wagner:
You have asked several questions regarding whether fines and costs resulting from speeding violations are to be paid to local municipalities or to the State of Delaware General Fund. Your inquiries are variations of the question: "when are fines paid to the State versus the municipality?" The answer to that questions depends upon when and where the violation occurs.
Delaware adopted the common law requirement that the State has the burden of proving territorial jurisdiction as an element of a criminal offense. 11 Del. C. § 232. Accordingly, the State must prove that the offense occurred or was initiated within the territorial boundaries of Delaware. Sheenan v. State, Del. Supr., 526 A.2d 886, 890 (1987); Bright v. State, Del. Supr., 490 A.2d 564 (1985). This element is also applied in the proof of traffic violations. See e.g., State v. Cochran, Del. Supr., 372 A.2d 193 (1977); State v. Petsinger, Del.Com.Pl., 1998 WL 1543570 (January 26, 1998). Likewise, the violation would have to occur within the corporate limits of a municipality in order for the town to have jurisdiction over the offense. See State v. Cochran, Del. Supr., 372 A.2d 193 (1977). It is not relevant where the speed detection device is located or where the offender was stopped. Id.
In your request, you refer to the statutory provision found at 21 Del. C. § 706(b) which provides:
(b) All fines and costs collected as a result of radar or other speed
timing devices, where the device is operated to determine speed beyond
the corporate limits of an incorporated city or town but within the jurisdiction
of the extended corporate limits provided by the applicable municipal charter,
shall be paid to the State Treasurer for the General Fund.
As you are aware, the preceding provision of § 706(a) states in pertinent
(a) All fines and costs collected for the violation of any of the provisions of this title, in the limits of any county, incorporated city or town in this State where arrests are procured by the authorized representatives of that county, incorporated city or town, shall be paid to that county, incorporated city or town within which such offense was committed. . . .
These provisions are clear on their face. When the motor vehicle violation
occurs within the corporate limits of a municipality, and that municipality's
police officer or "authorized representative" (including contracted police
enforcement services) makes the arrest, then the fine is to be paid to
the municipality in accordance with 21 Del. C. § 706(a). Otherwise,
the fine is payable to the State Treasurer in accordance with 21 Del.
C. § 706(b).
Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at my office.
Very truly yours,
Kevin R. Slattery
Deputy Attorney General
Michael J. Rich
cc: The Honorable M. Jane Brady
Mr. Philip G. Johnson, Opinion Coordinator BACK TO INDEX