Uniform Traffic Ticket vs. Ordinance Summons

State law authorizes two kinds of tickets, or charging documents, for municipalities to use for misdemeanor crimes and offenses. One is the Uniform Traffic Ticket. The other is the municipal ordinance summons. Confused as to which ticket is used for what offense? You are not alone. Each ticket has specific crimes or infractions for which it can be used.

Certified law enforcement officials must use the Uniform Traffic Ticket exclusively, instead of an arrest warrant, for traffic offenses. This includes offenses specifically listed in SC Code Section 56-7-10, such as disorderly conduct, open container, littering and trespassing, and offenses within the subject matter jurisdiction of municipal court that are committed in the presence of a law enforcement officer. No other ticket may be used for the offenses listed under Section 56-7-10. The use of UTTs to write violations of local ordinances is limited to municipal ordinance violations committed in the presence of a certified law enforcement officer.

In 1992, the legislature gave local governments the ability to adopt the municipal ordinance summons by ordinance to enforce local ordinances. Section 56-7-80 Before this, the only enforcement tool for municipal code violations was an arrest warrant. The ordinance summons is a ticket for enforcing local ordinances and may be issued by both certified law enforcement and authorized code enforcement officers. The ordinance summons requires the defendant to appear in municipal court to show cause for the violation.

Two problematic areas related to the use of an ordinance summons involve regulating motor vehicles and collecting state assessments and surcharges. State law is clear that under no circumstances is the ordinance summons to be used to perform a custodial arrest or to regulate the use of motor vehicles on public roads, including careless or negligent operations.

State law is equally clear that the use of ordinance summons is not exempt from state assessments and surcharges. As part of the unified court system, municipal courts must collect state-mandated assessments and surcharges on all charges resulting in a conviction, guilty plea or plea of nolo contendere, or forfeiture of bond for a crime or infraction.

Uniform traffic ticket and ordinance summons are two equally effective law enforcement tools when used properly. The UTT should be used by certified law enforcement officers exclusively for state code violations and may be used for municipal ordinance violations committed in the presence of the officer. The ordinance summons should be the sole method for enforcing municipal ordinance violations when issued by an authorized code enforcement officer.