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Code violators to face judges

People cited will have 30 days either to pay a fine of $30 to $500 or go before Pasco judges. Court no-shows could go to jail.


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 15, 2000

NEW PORT RICHEY -- For those with rubbish-cluttered driveways, rusted jalopies in the front yard, and rats scuttling through the glut of rotted food on the porch, the county has a message: Clean up your act. You could wind up in court.

As part of an effort to increase compliance with county codes, Pasco County judges will be hearing code violation cases starting Aug. 11. Starting this month, code violators will be issued citations that require them to pay a fine within 30 days or appear in court to dispute the charge.

The fines range from $30 for violating water ordinances to $500 for holding an outdoor festival without the proper permit, said Pasco code enforcement field supervisor John Spicuglia. Piles of furniture in the yard? That's an $80 fine.

Previously, code violators only had to appear before the code enforcement board, which could place a lien on the property of the scofflaws. Now, if violators fail to appear in court, they are guilty of a second degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days at the county jail in Land O'Lakes or a $500 fine.

Appearing before a judge, Spicuglia said, should inspire increased respect for the codes. "This is the guy in a robe that says, "You're going on a one-way trip to Land O'Lakes,' " Spicuglia said. "I feel that people will be more likely to comply."

Sworn law officers, as well as unsworn code enforcement officers, will be issuing the citations. County Judges Marc Salton and William Sestak will hear West Pasco cases in New Port Richey, and County Judge Robert P. Cole will handle east side cases in Dade City.

Lillian Simon, the senior court analyst for the Administrative Office of the Courts in West Pasco, said the transition has been under way since January. She said the State Attorney's Office will handle the arraignments for accused violators, while the County Attorney's Office will prosecute them.

Circuit Judge William Webb, who helped coordinate the transition, said there has been concern about the burden the new hearings might place on the courts, but he is optimistic. "There really was a great deal of time and effort (devoted to) doing this the right way," Webb said. "All the agencies have cooperated to effectuate a system that achieves both due process of law, as well as an effective judicial sanction."

Where to call

To report a code violation, call code enforcement at (727) 847-8110. Those with questions about what constitutes a code violation should call (727) 847-8171.

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