Reader Judi emailed and asked about those pesky pedestrian laws, asking for clarification on just what exactly constitutes a pedestrian in a walkway.

I had fully intended to answer that in this current issue of Courtside, but find myself – with no surprise whatsoever – sidetracked onto other issues. I will feel no guilt, however, because as of the Jan. 1, Oregon will be once again putting new pedestrian walkway rules into place, so any information I could give Judi in this column would be outdated within a couple of months. Short answer, though, to tide the curious over: If the pedestrian has started into the marked walkway, the pedestrian has the right of way and drivers must yield to that pedestrian.

The point about pedestrians does raise an interesting issue, leading me to offer a few more Important Safety Tips for folks this month, starting with those very same pedestrians. If a vehicle has arrived at the intersection first, and is starting to move, it is the pedestrian who must yield the right of way, or be in violation of state law – ORS 814.040, to be precise. Yes, I’m looking directly at Hermiston High School when I point this out. Apparently some of the hooligans (there’s a word you don’t see much any more) there think it’s cute or fun to step out in front of oncoming traffic, secure in their blissful misunderstanding of what the law says.

That blissful misunderstanding continues with the common misconception that somehow juveniles are immune from liability for criminal acts. While I haven’t extensively researched the matter, still, I’m not aware of any law — only policy — that prohibits children from being cited for offenses. And the penalty for a pedestrian failure to yield to a vehicle is classed as a Class D violation, which means a $90 fine for jumping out in front of a car.

Furthermore, let me call the readers’ attention to city ordinance 130.11, which allows the parent (or parents) of a wayward juvenile to be cited, and fined, for what the child has done. Failure to supervise is an A violation, with a possible fine of $750. So one of today’s safety tips, Mom and Dad, is to sit down and have a long hard conversation with your children in regard to their respect for other people and respect for the law.

Another of today’s safety tips is one that should be obvious, but does not seem to be. That one is, “If you owe the City of Hermiston a fine, please, please, PLEASE contact the court FIRST if you are having problems making those payments.”

I would much rather see someone who’s having problems first, rather than having to send out a show cause order – or worse, a warrant for arrest – because without better information there is no way, from my desk, to tell the difference between somebody who’s not paying because he can’t and somebody who’s not paying because he won’t. This raises a related safety tips – if you are still under obligation to the court, keep the court informed of your current address.

“I didn’t get a copy of my show cause order” is not a great excuse if you’ve moved three times and never told the court where to send paperwork.

Finally, for today’s safety tips, and in relation to payment of fines, while things like fees and assessments need to be paid in cash, fines can generally be worked off in the form of community service. Let me repeat that, in all caps, so there’s no misunderstanding: FINES CAN GENERALLY BE WORKED OFF IN THE FORM OF COMMUNITY SERVICE!!

I have repeated this endlessly from the bench, the clerks out front say the same thing, and yet the flow of people who claim not to know this continues. Note the use of the word “generally.” Community service in lieu of fines (as opposed to it being ordered) is a privilege, not a right, and although the Hermiston court is one of the easiest in the state to work with in regard to fine payments (based on an informal survey of other municipal judges), nevertheless it is not a given that community service is always allowed, and if you have any questions about whether it would be appropriate in your case, give the court a call. Again, Courtside is in recess – but questions about court and court procedures, to, are always in order. 

Thomas Creasing is a Hermiston Municipal Court judge.

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