TAMPA — Tampa code violators could find themselves facing a judge instead of the city's Code Enforcement Board starting in September.
The chief judge for Hillsborough County Circuit Court has created two courts specifically to hear city ordinance violations.
One will handle violations punishable by jail time, a list that includes Notice to Appear citations issued to the city's habitual housing code violators.
The other will handle civil infractions, such as noise violations and open-container citations. Housing code violators are also often ticketed as civil offenses.
“The special municipal dockets are a common sense solution that will hopefully expedite how quickly the court can process code enforcement and aggressive panhandling, among other issues,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in a written statement announcing the new courts.
The new courts were created in the midst of Buckhorn's month-long code enforcement sweep in several parts of town notorious for poorly kept housing. That sweep is in its final week.
City officials said the new courts will streamline code enforcement by providing code officers and the Tampa Police Department a designated location for their hearings and judges trained to hear municipal code violations.
Before the municipal courts were set up, city ordinance violations went to the same dockets with criminal misdemeanor offenses and could be heard by any of six different judges.
The first code court cases will start Sept. 11 for those punishable by jail time. Civil cases will start Oct. 3.