Dover City Council approves $1,000+ fines for off-road vehicle violations

By Benjamin Rothstein
Posted 7/8/24

DOVER—City Council approved an ordinance pertaining to off-road vehicles during Monday’s council meeting, part of which is the addition of violation fines that could be as high $4,000. …

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Dover City Council approves $1,000+ fines for off-road vehicle violations

Posted

DOVER—City Council approved an ordinance pertaining to off-road vehicles during Monday’s council meeting, part of which is the addition of violation fines that could be as high $4,000.

Police Chief Thomas Johnson said that the fines were not a money-making opportunity for the city, but rather a deterrent for a rampant off-roading vehicle problem in the city.

“We literally walked out of a council meeting here about a month ago, and we heard them coming. It was about 9:30 at night. It was a pack of probably a dozen to 15 three wheelers, quads, and dirt bikes. Nobody’s got any lights. Nobody’s got any reflective (equipment). Nobody’s wearing any protective equipment. Everybody’s doing wheelies and circles,” said the chief.

“They’re just roving packs of young people who are having an exciting time. And I don’t begrudge them for enjoying their youth, but they’re in an activity that over and over and over again leads to serious accidents, fatalities, (and) road rage incidents,” he added

Part of the ordinance specifies exactly what constitutes an off-road vehicle, excluding things like farm equipment or any vehicle that cannot go faster than 20 miles per hour. The chief says that drivers of vehicles covered by the ordinances have been disregarding traffic laws, harassing pedestrians and other motorists.

It specifies that the vehicles cannot be driven on public property anywhere within the city, and a city license is required for use on private property. A muffler to reduce noise is required as well.

The civil penalties, which the chief said are modeled after a similar ordinance in Wilmington start at $500 for every ownership, license, or muffler violation, with the fine doubling to $1,000 for repeat offenses.

Those who break state of Delaware off-road vehicle restrictions, or break private or public property rules, will be subject to $2,000 for the first offense and $1,000 for every subsequent violation. If a prior case is closed relating to off-road vehicles, and that person violates again, they receive a $4,000 fine with $2,000 for every additional violation.

The code stipulates that the owner issued a penalty may forfeit the vehicle to the city in lieu of the fine.

Dover Police also have the authority to confiscate an off-road vehicle if they have probable cause to believe it violates the ordinance either on sight or via a search warrant.

Confiscated or forfeited vehicles will be disposed of via a city-related auction. Proceeds from the sales will go into a fund benefiting victims of tragic circumstances.

“It is an aggressive approach that’s hopefully going to be more of a deterrence to the kind of behavior that we’ve seen than the current package of options that we have available to us, which was literally just as a state traffic violation and not much more beyond that,” said Chief Johnson.

The ordinance passed unanimously. Though it is automatically in effect, the chief said that the department will likely put out a warning in advance before violations go out.

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