Barrington Town Council approves municipal court

Barrington Town Hall, Barrington, Rhode Island

Barrington Town Hall, Barrington, Rhode Island

The Town of Barrington officially has a municipal court.

The town council voted 4-1 Monday night in favor of an ordinance that formally establishes the court. The vote marked the culmination of process that began in Dec. 2011.

Town councilor Cynthia Coyne lead the charge for a local municipal court. She reiterated her support for the proposal Thursday, stating a municipal court will be convenient for residents who would otherwise head to Sixth District Court in Providence.

Ms. Coyne also said the court has a chance to bring new revenue into the town though finance director Dean Huff said any profit will be minor and the court will likely be revenue neutral.

Police Chief John LaCross also supported the court. He said it will improve due process.

Though the ordinance permits the court to handle moving traffic violations, the court will initially only handle municipal ordinance violations. While processing speeding tickets and other moving infractions could bring heightened revenue it would also require additional costs.

Ms. Coyne said the court could pick up moving violations at a later date.

Chief LaCross added the court will also be able to handle matters such as underage possession of alcohol if the town council enacts local ordinances mirroring state law. This would allow individuals to receive a status offense versus a criminal offense, Chief LaCross said, avoiding an arrest record.

Town councilor Bill DeWitt voted against the proposal. He wanted the town to see if Bristol or Warren would be willing to regionalize their courts with Barrington. Ms. Coyne characterized Mr. DeWitt’s proposal as a “stall tactic.”

The court is currently scheduled to meet for two hours in the morning of the third Thursday every month. The court isn’t expected to meet for an initial session until June at the earliest.

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