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Criminal Justice

LAist Inbox: $200 Ticket for Smoking on a Burbank Sidewalk?

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Photo by marcbenton via Flickr

On LAist's "Contribute" page, there are three ways you can participate: submit a link, join the LAist Featured Photos group on Flickr or leave us an anonymous tip. And one reader did more just leave a tip, he submitted an entire rant. It's a good rant and it raises good questions regarding policing for sidewalk smokers, local economies and police resources:

Last month I was in downtown Burbank for an evening out with family, after dinner I stepped outside the restaurant and lit up a cigarette. Moments later my Girlfriend and I were approached by two police officers on bicycles, and cited for smoking a cigarette in a public area. When the cops rode up on us, they said "Did you know you can't smoke here in downtown Burbank?" we politely said "No" and extinguished our lit cigarettes. Allow me to add, I am nearly 30 years old, I pay my taxes, I obey speed limits and I can't remember the last time I intentionally vandalized private property. I am an adult, as an adult I take certain liberties, one of which is enjoying a post dinner cigarette instead of simple warning, we issued tickets that cost us $200 each. While awaiting my arraignment, two people plead guilty to misdemeanor marijuana possession, and received a $280 fine. So, I could smoke an illegal substance, or a legal product, and receive roughly the same punishment.

We live in nearby North Hollywood and frequent many shops, restaurant, gas stations, and bars in the Burbank area, or should I say we used to. I, along with anyone who I know will now avoid the city all costs.
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Now, I understand all the risks and health issues that are associated with cigarette smoking, yet this law is solely an attempt by the city of Burbank to collect an obscene amount of money. While in court today, there were six other people issued the same fine.

If I lit a cigarette inside a bar or restaurant and received a ticket, it would be understandable, a new law that is not close to common knowledge should not be enforced to this extent. A simple warning would be sufficient.

If I were a business owner in Burbank I would be furious, and frightened, not to say all people who eat dinner and go to bars smoke, but a good majority of folks enjoy a cigarette if they have a few drinks, or a big meal.

This will effect the local Burbank economy in several ways, they have already collected $400 from my household, but I assure you the thousands I may have spent on a myriad of products will now never happen.

I truly believe the police officers have better things to do than write tickets to adults for smoking a cigarette. The officers took roughly 20 minutes to write us these tickets, if you count the 6 other people cited the same night, that's over two and half hours of time that could have been spent patrolling the streets for people actually committing crimes.

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It's not right, we should all be outraged that our tax dollars pay the cops salaries to address these types of "crimes."