Enforcing an Ordinance

Ordinances are a legal tool available for use by a municipality to help make its community one that people want to live in. Whether an ordinance is used to compel pet owners to use leashes or to encourage homeowners to keep their yards free from junk, an ordinance can be the best enforcement tool a municipality has. Ordinances encourage good community behavior and can even help prevent disputes amongst neighbors. However, an ordinance is only effective if there is the political will to enforce it.

In order to enact and enforce municipal rules, a number of steps need to be taken to make sure any alleged violators are given sufficient “due process.” First, a citation ordinance must be drafted giving the municipality authority to issue citations. Timeframes and processes in a citation ordinance must then be strictly followed. For citation enforcement to go smoothly, the citation ordinance must specify the following:

  1. Which individuals have authority to issue citations;
  2. The timeframe from notice of a potential violation to citation issuance;
  3. Information documenting the violation as required by the clerk when the citation is filed;
  4. The acceptable means of delivering the citation; and
  5. Defenses available to the recipient of the citation.

Second, the municipality must have an ordinance governing the unwanted behavior. There must be authority for the ordinance, and it cannot conflict with state or federal law. Ordinances must specify what constitutes a violation, how much time the violator has to remedy the situation and the amount of the forfeiture for the violation. In some cases, the state provides draft templates for ordinances which provide some assurance that an ordinance is valid. The state’s templates conform to the corresponding statutes that grant authority to write the ordinance and provide clear language that does not conflict with other state or federal laws. However, state templates can be lengthy and difficult to understand. The best practice is to consult with your municipal attorney whenever drafting an ordinance.

Third, the municipality should work within the relevant court system. Different municipal or county courts have their own requirements for filing. Specific court dates and filing fees for ordinance prosecutions are used in each court system. Collaborate with the clerk of the court to ensure that all ordinances are filed correctly and that ordinance forfeitures are in accordance with the municipal or county fee schedule.

If attempts to resolve the situation informally have been taken and the violation persists, it is time to issue a citation. The state has citation books available that are simple to use and acceptable in all Wisconsin courts. An individual authorized to do so should fill out the required portions of the citation and deliver it to the alleged violator as specified by the ordinance citation. Once the citation is issued and a copy sent to the clerk of court, the matter moves to the court for prosecution. The defendant may plead not guilty and request a trial, plead guilty and remit payment of the forfeiture(s) to the county, or fail to appear and be found guilty by the court in default. Each municipality needs to have an attorney to offer advice throughout the citation process and ultimately to prosecute the ordinance.

It is important to follow through in enforcing any citation issued. Individuals that have a tendency to ignore notices and warnings should not be allowed to ignore a citation. Without proper enforcement, the efforts to draft appropriate ordinances and issue citations are simply a bark with no bite.

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Bits & Bytes – Lender Edition: How Do I Collect on My Judgment?

B&BYou have pursued collection against your previous customer and have a judgment in hand. Now what?

Take a moment for “Bits & Bytes,” as Attorney Deanne Koll discusses the options a lender has to collect on its judgment.

Click here for a transcript or click here to view previous videos in the Lender Edition series.

Disclaimer: This video is designed to be educational and informative, but it is not legal advice. Collection law is constantly evolving and subject to change. Each situation is unique, and each case should be addressed to fit the unique situation.

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How Do I Collect on My Judgment?

B&BYou have pursued collection against your previous customer and have a judgment in hand. Now what?  Take a moment for “Bits & Bytes,” as Attorney Deanne Koll discusses the options a lender has to collect on its judgment.

Disclaimer: This video is designed to be educational and informative, but it is not legal advice. Collection law is constantly evolving and subject to change. Each situation is unique, and each case should be addressed to fit the unique situation.

You have pursued collection against your previous customer and have a judgment in hand. Now you want to actually recover some money…not just have a piece of paper.

The most common collection action is an earnings garnishment. An earnings garnishment (sometimes called a wage garnishment) is a separate lawsuit, which adds the debtor’s employer. The wage garnishment directs the debtor’s employer to take a portion of the debtor’s paycheck and pay it to the creditor, rather than to the debtor.

This is an effective way to collect on a judgment. However, a creditor should be aware that there are a number of instances in which a debtor is “exempt” from wage garnishment. Most notably, if the debtor is on any public assistance (like food stamps or Badger Care) or if the debtor falls below the federally-mandated poverty line.

Another common collection action is a non-earnings garnishment. A non-earnings garnishment action is a separate lawsuit, which adds a third-party who owes the debtor money. For example, if the debtor is owed rent from a tenant, the creditor could file a non-earnings garnishment to attempt to force the tenant to pay the creditor, rather than the debtor, the rent money.

There are also other less frequently used methods of collecting on a judgment. You should discuss the particulars of your case with your attorney.

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