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DWI and bail fees down in Erie County this year

Court fines for DWI and bail fees are down, while handicapped parking fines are up so far this year in Erie County, according to a report by the Erie County comptroller's office.

There could be budget issues ahead, if the downward trends continue, according to the report.

Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw also said court fines for violating handicapped parking regulations increased 36 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the first quarter of last year.

"No able-bodied person should park in handicapped parking spots. Period. This is a selfish, disgraceful act. The message is simple: if you do not have authority to park in a handicapped parking spot, do not park there,” Mychajliw said.

He organized a news conference with officials from the Erie County Sheriff's Department and Town of Orchard Park to raise awareness of the illegal use of handicapped parking spaces.

The county receives a portion of court fines for driving while intoxicated and certain vehicle and traffic offenses, including handicapped parking violations, and a percentage of bail fees.

The county collected $2,562 from towns and villages, via New York State, in surcharges for handicapped parking violations this year, which is close to what was budgeted for this year. But it is 36 percent more than was collected during the same period last year. The funds are used for handicapped parking education programs.

The report said careful monitoring is warranted for DWI programs and alternatives to incarceration funded by the surcharges.

Court fines from towns and villages for DWIs accounted for $149,025 in the first three months of this year, which is down nearly 14 percent from the same time last year. The county budgeted for a 4.4 percent decrease in the DWI funds for the year.

Erie County also receives bail fees from municipalities to fund alternatives to incarceration. The comptroller's report states $2,013 was collected in bail fees from towns and villages in the first quarter of this year, an amount that is down 18. 3 percent from the same period last year.

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