The only 12-square blocks where you can be ticketed for not wearing a seat belt

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Colo. -- Some towns are known as speed traps but one metro  town is known for seat belt violations.

Mountain View has issued nearly 4,000 seat belt tickets in the last 3 years.

Colorado considers seat belt violations a secondary violation, meaning drivers typically need to be pulled over for a primary offense like speeding, before police can ticket them for a seat belt violation.

But, as Denver resident Summer Borga found out, Mountain View has its own rules.

Borga received an $80 dollar ticket near 44th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard in early October.

“When he stopped me, I asked 'Oh was it for my broken mirror?' and he said, 'No your passenger is not wearing his seat belt.'”

Borga and her husband, Chris, were shocked to learn Mountain View, as a home-rule city, has its own ordinance treating seat belt violations as a primary violation.

“I think it’s a way to build revenue,” said Chris Borga.

He admitted he forgot to wear his seat belt but believed any town that generates more than 40 percent of its budget from traffic tickets, is more interested in revenue than public safety.

“Some other reason should’ve been the reason we got pulled over in the first place,” said Chris Borga.

Seat belt violations are a common reason to be pulled over in Mountain View.  The town only covers 12 square blocks between Denver and Wheat Ridge.

Yet from Jan. 1, 2012, to Oct. 16, 2014, it issued 3,812 seat belt violations. That’s nearly four seat belt tickets every day.

Denver, which has 650,000 people compared to Mountain View’s population of 500, only issued 1,840 seat belt tickets in the same time frame.

Mountain View Police Chief Mark Toth declined an on-camera interview but said on the phone seat belt tickets are issued for public safety not to increase city coffers.

Still, drivers like Steven Greenwalt find that hard to believe.

"They're just trying to make money.  They're trying to support  their little building,” Greenwalt said.

We met up with Greenwalt paying his ticket at Mountain View City Hall.

“I’m sure a lot of the stuff they do isn't legal but how do you fight it?” asked Greenwalt.

Home-rule cities are allowed to create their own ordinances that override state law, but according to the Colorado Constitution, a city with 2,000 residents is supposed to have “the power to make, amend, add to, or replace” state law.

Mountain View barely has 500 people, which  has the American Civil Liberties Union questioning the city’s justification for issuing seat belt violations as a primary violation.

Denise Maes is the ACLU’s Public Policy Director and is investigating Mountain View’s policy of “whether or not they even have the authority to do what they're doing or if they're in blatant violation of the state constitution."

Maes said she is convinced Mountain View’s policy serves only one purpose: “These police officers are not acting in the name of public safety.  They're acting in the name of making sure they have enough revenue in the coffers of Mountain View to get a paycheck.”

We asked Mountain View’s police chief what ordinance his department relies on to treat seat belt violations as a primary offense instead of a secondary offense.  He never responded to our question.

The ACLU says it’s continuing to investigate the legality of the practice.

In the meantime, Summer Borga said drivers need to know one thing: “People need to be aware that Colorado State law doesn't protect them in  Mountain View.”

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33 comments

  • anonymous

    Well I have to agree that the mountain view police dept. Does go to far when it comes to writing traffic tickets and not doing anything about real crime.
    I moved out of mountain view after I had been assaulted and my cell phone and house keys were stolen and the only thing that mountain view pd did was harrass me and had someone come change my locks never looking for the people who assaulted me.

  • Kodi Rotti

    In Texas, any law enforcement officer can ticket any driver OR passenger for not wearing a seat belt, no other offense required.

  • Anonymous

    Boycott Mountain View businesses!!! and email the ones you used to go to and tell them that you won’t shop there for fear of a somewhat random ticket. I have tried the new Rico Pollo but I walked over there and probably will just drive over to the one on Federal if I want their chicken again.
    I live on the Denver side across Sheridan from MV and after getting a cracked windshield ticket this past spring I quit going to the few stores I went to before that. And Wal-Mart is across the street so it’s hard to get to without being in MV so shop Target, or another WM if you must. But tell them why you won’t go there.
    With holiday shopping coming soon, MV looks to make a lot of money from tickets, not tax revenue, so don’t give them either.

  • Mary

    I’ve lived in metro Denver since 1963 – and this is the first time I’ve heard of “Mountain View”. Wouldn’t it have been a better example of complete reporting for the “staff” to have included the boundaries of this ticket trap?

    • Denver resident against MV

      They did a story this past spring highlighting the high number of cracked windshield (obstructed view) tickets and probably assumed we all remember it.
      Mountain View borders Sheridan on the east, 44th on the north, I think Pierce on the west, and I’m not sure on the south but it’s around 39th or 40th, you have to be in MV at that point.
      On a side note, I had a friend that lived there for a few years and was pulled over a total of 3 times and each time was given a warning.

  • Anon

    Oh noes! Those poor poor people! If only there were SOME way to foil those evil police and avoid getting a ticket!

  • Jen

    (unless they already got someone else,Then its your lucky day.) Best to try to avoid the little town. They have nothing better to do…then to write tickets all day and patrol Walmart.

  • Twerkin Merkin

    This town is nothing more than a crime syndicate masquerading as a municipality. They should be absorbed into Denver. I was ticketed recently for “running a red light” in Mountain View while the light was orange. I will boycott every business in that town.

  • Denver resident

    Anon….I get your sarcasm, but part of the point is that they changed a state law to fit their needs. And nobody can convince me that’s it’s in the best interest of the public safety of MV citizens. It’s about making money to pay their salaries. Fuzzy dice hanging on a mirror in no way endangers MV citizens, especially simply going south on Sheridan.

    What IF everyone went through MV with a seat belt on and no cracks in their windshield and nothing hanging from their windshield?? The city would have to lay off the whole police force and the city council.
    It was 9news and here is a link to the spring article:
    http://www.9news.com/story/news/investigations/2014/05/20/9wtk-tiny-metro-town-addicted-to-tickets/9312621/

    Lesson learned, avoid Sheridan south and 44th east. Otherwise your safe.
    Hint: the MV police like to sit at the lights on 44th across from Wallyworld and get people pulling out going east onto MV limits (WM is in the ‘town’ of Lakeside, who also have police but aren’t in the ticket writing business, they generate income by getting businesses and a tax income base, not a ticket writing base).

  • Tom W

    KDVR has already ran a story discrediting the MVPD. Pick a new topic. And how about this: WEAR YOUR SEATBELT! Or a ticket. Might convince u to wear and maybe save your life. Ahhh, I get tired of people bad mouthing our cops! We need them!!

    • LBell

      And how about this: Let’s stop giving our freedom away to the government so they can protect us from ourselves. If it’s a kid with no seatbelt, no problem, ticket away. If it’s an adult who has the ability to choose whether or not to protect themselves, then leave them alone! You liberals are all the same –“If only one person were saved by this practice…” blah, blah, blah…

  • Anonymous

    I used to work at the Arbys, right on the corner of 44th & Sheridan.They lost soooo much business because people refused to come eat because there was always 2-3 cop cars outside.So, if boycotting the businesses there is someone’s plan it’s probably a good one b/c I know my supervisor there has tried to get them from ticketing people on Arby’s property for years.These cops are dirty and gross.They were all released from their prior employment for abusing their authority.My co workers spoke with them and they all speak like little thugs.Yuck.stay away from Mountain View.

  • Denver resident

    Tom W. Yes, I get it, wear a safety belt. I’m not justifying not, but the rest of the whole state has a different set of rules than your tiny little town, that many people don’t even know exists. Use some of that ticket money for signs saying ‘entering Mountain View, seat belts required at all times’ instead of hiding out waiting to write tickets.

    When I first moved to north Denver 14 years ago I would ask people about the bar by Arby’s ( I’m a dive bar kind of guy). Every single person said if I go to park across the street in Denver then walk across the street or don’t go at all because cops wait for you to get in your car then pull you over for no reason just hoping your drank too much.

  • Zazzles

    I wonder if the citizens of MV get any benefits from the ticket revenue (road work, city beautification etc)?

  • Chris

    It’s a toss up between mountain view and Morrison cops for which ones are worse. I don’t think I have ever been up 285 without seeing them with somebody pulled over. I travel that route several times a week.

    • Anonymous

      Ya but the Morrison cops are usually pulling people over for speeding. Thats a pretty legit reason. I know for a fact most everyone speeds in the canyon.

    • theairdog

      You have to be going at least 15 mph over the speed limit, after traveling for one mile on a stretch of highway that has THREE 50 mph signs, ONE 45 mph sign, and ONE diagonal warning sign that says, “Speed Zone – 45 mph Ahead”, to get a ticket. This on a winding two-lane mountain road with a 150 foot drop on the south side.

      DUH!

  • Steve Davis

    Old story, been there done that, the fact of the matter is that Mountain VIew has had ZERO fatal car accidents since that Chief has been there. NHTSA says Seatbelts are the first line of defense in saving lifes NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE, so I say Way to go Mtn View, thanks for keeping us safe……for the rest of you, CLICK IT OR TICKET

  • Beth

    Most cops would give a warning not moutain view we now refuse to do any work in this area because of the pd as they are all jerks and have a lack of understanding when some is rushing to the er because they have a medical emergency instead of helping that gave a ticket for running a yellow light but you can’t call them out otherwise you land in court because you said something horrible town

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