Knowledgebase-Power of Municipal Judge to Order Traffic Offender to Attend Specific Driver Safety Classes


Information Product

Title:Power of Municipal Judge to Order Traffic Offender to Attend Specific Driver Safety Classes
Summary:MTAS was asked if a municipal judge may order traffic offenders to attend a city operated course for traffic offenders.
Original Author:Ashburn, Melissa
Co-Author:
Product Create Date:09/23/2004
Last Reviewed on::06/26/2017
Subject:Courts; Motor vehicles--Laws and regulations; Traffic--Laws and regulations
Type:Legal Opinion
Legal Opinion: Power of Municipal Judge to Order Traffic Offender to Attend Specific Driver Safety Classes public.doc

Reference Documents:

Text of Document: MEMORANDUM


FROM: Melissa Ashburn, Legal Consultant

DATE: September 23, 2004

RE: Power of municipal judge to order traffic offender to attend specific driver safety classes

You have asked me if a city judge may order a traffic offender to attend specific driver safety courses as a condition for dismissal of the charges. This question arose when a traffic offender from City A was ticketed in City B. The municipal judge permitted the offender to attend a traffic safety course near her residence in City A, and she completed the course and the charges were dismissed. No fees or funds were received by City B from City A, so the driver safety program administered by the city did not benefit. In addition to asking whether the judge may order the offender to attend classes administered by the city, you also ask if there are any grounds for the city to claim reimbursement when an offender attends classes at another location.

There are no cases or Attorney General opinions on this issue, but statutory language is helpful. The statute under which cities establish “driver education” courses is Tennessee Code Annotated 55-10-301. This section of the law permits cities to operate courses or to contract with a nonprofit organization or private entity to conduct classes. Whatever method the city chooses to follow, the law requires that:

Each court clerk shall provide a list of approved entities in such county to any person ordered to attend a driver education or improvement course. T.C.A. 50-10-301(b)(4).

Due to this language, specifically the words I have emphasized, the court may order the offender to attend a course in the county in which the court is located. The court does not have to permit a driver to attend a course in another county.

However, as the clerk is required by law to provide a list of approved courses “in the county,” the implication is that the court cannot require that the traffic offender attend the course administered by the city.

With regard to your question about potential reimbursement, in my opinion there are no grounds for the city to make a claim for reimbursement. The statute addresses the costs which may be charged for attending a driver education course as “fees.” T.C.A. 55-10-301(b)(2). As you are aware, fees charged for municipal services must bear a reasonable relationship to the cost of the service provided. Due to this longstanding legal principal in Tennessee municipal law, a city which does not provide the service cannot claim a “fee.” As such, in my opinion the city may not claim reimbursement for driver education or safety courses attended at another location.

I hope this is helpful. Let me know if you need anything further.

Please remember that these legal opinions were written based on the facts of a given city at a certain time. The laws referenced in any opinion may have changed or may not be applicable to your city or circumstances.

Always consult with your city attorney or an MTAS consultant before taking any action based on information contained in this database.