Prince George’s County moves closer to stiffer punishment for illegal off-road vehicles

The Prince George’s County, Maryland, council wants to crack down on the illegal use of off-road vehicles.

Council members in a meeting as the committee of the whole on Tuesday wanted to know  whether they had the power to go as far as they could in terms of punishment and whether it would work. The answer to both questions seemed to be yes.

The bill, first introduced in the early spring and tabled while the matter was studied, would see initial fines for illegal off-road and all-terrain vehicle use jump from $250 to $500 for the first violation, with subsequent penalties going up to $1,000, the highest under state law.

They also propose the impoundment of abandoned or unregistered vehicles if they’re used in a crime or if ordered by a judge when someone is convicted.

When pressed by council member Tom Dernoga, county attorney Kathleen Canning said, “We feel like we’re on firm footing,” when it comes to having the authority under the state to impound those vehicles.

The only other question came from Council member Jolene Ivey, who wondered how many fines police were doling out now and how many would ever be impounded if they’re not allowed to engage in a chase of those vehicles.

“I do like to actually be able to accomplish the goal,” Ivey said.

Council member Sydney Harrison had an answer: the Prince George’s County Police Department’s aviation unit.

“Because they can’t chase them by police car,” Harrison said he asked how often police go up to chase them by air.

“They have caught over 300 ATV individuals by air,” Harrison said. “That’s one of their tools that they utilize to help catch these individuals.”

Once that was revealed, the council voted 10-0 on initial approval of the legislation. It will still need to be voted on again before it goes to the county executive to be signed into law.

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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