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Subject 515-16-14 PROCEDURE FOR IMPOSING CIVIL PENALTIES AND RECOMMENDING CRIMINAL PENALTIES

Rule 515-16-14-.01 Commission's Authority

The Georgia Public Service Commission is authorized to regulate the business of certain motor carriers (normally bus, limousine, household goods carriers and nonconsensual tow truck operators) and may impose civil penalties for such carrier's failure to comply with applicable law and/or Commission rules and regulations.

Rule 515-16-14-.02 Definitions

(1) Carrier. A person who undertakes the transporting of goods or passengers for compensation.
(2) Consent Agreement. An agreement entered into by the Commission and a carrier or person resolving allegations that the carrier or person violated applicable law and/or Commission rules and regulations.
(3) Contested Case. A proceeding in which the legal rights, duties, or privileges of a party are required by law to be determined by an agency after an opportunity for hearing.
(4) Civil Penalties. Monetary fines the Commission may assess against a carrier or person for willfully failing to comply with applicable laws and/or Commission rules and regulations.
(5) Hearing Officer. The Commission employee who presides over contested cases.
(6) Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Any safety or hazardous material regulations that have been promulgated and adopted by the Commission.
(7) Notice of Noncompliance. Official notice issued by the Commission setting forth a carrier's violations of applicable laws and/or Commission rules and regulations.
(8) Person. Any individual, partnership, trust, private or public corporation, municipality, county, political subdivision, public authority, cooperative, association, or public or private organization of any character.
(9) Transportation Statutes. All statutes regulating motor carriers administered and enforced by the Commission, including O.C.G.A. Chapters 46-2 and 46-7 and §§ 46-1-1, 44-1-13, and 46-1-4, Act 68, Georgia Laws 2005, pages 334 - 450.

Rule 515-16-14-.03 Amount of Civil Penalties

(1) Except to the extent preclude by lower penalties specified in O.C.G.A. § 44-1-13, 46-7-91 or other specific federal or state statutes applicable to a given carrier conduct, the criminal and civil penalties for violation of this Chapter include those set forth in O.C.G.A. §§ 46-2-90 through 46-2-93, 46-7-39 and 46-7-90 and in Chapters 515-16-3 and 515-16-10 of these Transportation Rules; and such penalties ranging as high as $15,000.00 per violation, plus $10,000.00 per day for each day such violation continues, can only be imposed by the Commission after notice and hearing, unless the violator consents in writing to such penalties. Such higher civil penalties are applicable to those carriers who violate a Commission Order or these Transportation Rules repeatedly or otherwise demonstrate willful or wanton refusal to comply with, or disregard for, this Commission's jurisdiction, Georgia law and these Transportation Rules.
(2) As the exception to the foregoing paragraph (1) of this Rule notes, any person who knowingly violates 49 CFR § 171.2(g) or willfully violates any provision of the Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations may also be fined under Title 18 of the United States Code, or imprisoned for not more than five (5) years, or both.
(3) Any person who drives a commercial motor vehicle while in violation of the provisions of O.C.G.A. § 40-5-143 or any employer who knowingly allows, requires, permits, or authorizes a driver to drive a commercial motor vehicle in violation of the provisions of O.C.G.A. § 40-5-145 shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a civil penalty of $2,500 for each offense and by a fine of $5,000 or imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or both, for each offense.
(4) The civil penalty assessed against an employer who knowingly allows, requires, permits, or authorizes a driver to drive a commercial motor vehicle in violation of any federal state or local law or regulation pertaining to railroad grade crossings shall not exceed $10,000.
(5) Any person who violates the statutory provisions of O.C.G.A. § 44-1-13 pertaining to nonconsensual towing shall be subject to civil penalties not to exceed $2,500 for each violation.
(6) The Commission may impose civil penalties not to exceed $5,000 for each violation if it is determined that any person, firm, or corporation is operating as a household goods carrier for hire without a valid certification or is holding itself out as a carrier without such a certificate.

Rule 515-16-14-.04 Notice of Noncompliance

(1) The Commission shall issue, by U.S. Mail or personal service, a Notice of Noncompliance to a person or carrier upon determination that the carrier or person has willfully:
(a) Violated any transportation laws administered by the Commission;
(b) Violated any rules or regulations administered by the Commission; or
(c) Failed, neglected or refused to comply with any order after receiving notice thereof.
(2) The Notice of Noncompliance shall include:
(a) Time, place, and nature of the hearing;
(b) Concise statement of violations and applicable statutes and regulations;
(c) Statement of the legal authority and jurisdiction under which the Notice of Compliance has been issued;
(d) Case name and number;
(e) Notice of amount claimed and notice of the maximum amount authorized pursuant to applicable statutory provisions;
(f) Statement as to the right of the carrier or person to subpoena witnesses and evidence through the agency;
(g) Statement regarding the carrier's or person's right to pay the penalties assessed or, within thirty (30) days of receipt of the Notice of Noncompliance, request a hearing to contest the imposition of the penalties.
(h) Such notice shall be deemed received three (3) days after mailing.
(3) In the event that the carrier or person fails to request a hearing within thirty (30) days' receipt of the Notice of Noncompliance:
(a) Any rights to an appeal and hearing shall be considered to have been waived; and
(b) The assessed penalties shall become effective upon the expiration of the thirty (30) day notice period.

Rule 515-16-14-.05 Commission Staff Action

Upon a determination that a violation of the Act may have occurred, the Commission Staff shall take one or more of the following actions:

(a) Recommend that warning letter be issued to the person alleged to have committed the violation (the "Respondent");
(b) Enter settlement negotiations with the Respondent. Upon reaching agreement on settlement terms, the Commission Staff shall present the proposed settlement to the Commission for acceptance or rejection. If the Commission Staff and the Respondent are unable to reach agreement on settlement terms, the Respondent may present additional facts to the Advisory Committee;
(c) Request that the Commission issue a Rule Nisi pursuant to Commission Rules.

Rule 515-16-14-.06 Commission Action

(1) The Commission may accept or reject a proposed settlement to resolve probable violations of the Act. If the Commission rejects a proposed settlement, a hearing may be scheduled to receive evidence and take appropriate enforcement action as provide by Commission Rule.
(2) At any hearing scheduled regarding assessment of civil penalties under the Chapter 14 of the Commission's Transportation Rules, the Commission may assign the case to a hearing officer pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 46-2-58 for the receipt of testimony, documentary, and other tangible evidence, oral argument and briefs by the parties; and upon closing of the said hearing, the hearing officer shall render a recommended decision or initial decision within forty-five (45) days of receipt of final briefs or close of the record, which ever last occurs.
(3) If the Commission finds, after a hearing, that a violation of the Act has occurred, it may impose a civil penalty as provided by Transportation Rule 515-16-14-.07 or in O.C.G.A. §§ 46-2-58, 46-2-90, 46-2-91, 46-7-27, 46-7-90, and 46-7-91.

Rule 515-16-14-.07 Civil Penalties

(1) In determining the amount of any civil penalty to be assessed under Transportation Rule 515-16-14-.03, the Commission may consider the nature, circumstances and gravity of the violation of the Act; the degree of the Respondent's culpability; the Respondent's history of prior violations of the Act; and such other factors as may be appropriate.
(2) A Respondent shall pay any civil penalty that has been assessed by submitting to the Commission, in care of Director of Transportation Unit, a certified check payable to the Georgia Public Service Commission.
(3) Except to the extent precluded by lower penalties specified in O.C.G.A. § 44-1-13, 46-7-91 or other specific federal or state statutes applicable to a given carrier conduct, the criminal and civil penalties for violation of this Chapter include those set forth in O.C.G.A. §§ 46-2-90 through 46-2-93, 46-7-39 and 46-7-90 and in Chapters 515-16-3 and 515-16-10 of these Transportation Rules; and such penalties ranging as high as $15,000.00 per violation, plus $10,000.00 per day for each day such violation continues, can only be imposed by the Commission after notice and hearing, unless the violator consents in writing to such penalties. Such higher civil penalties are applicable to those carriers who violate a Commission Order or these Transportation Rules repeatedly or otherwise demonstrate willful or wanton refusal to comply with, or disregard for, this Commission's jurisdiction, Georgia law and these Transportation Rules.

Rule 515-16-14-.08 Appeals Generally

Any person subject to an order from the Commission may petition the Commission for reconsideration of the order. Moreover, any person aggrieved by an order of the Commission may seek relief in Fulton County Superior Court and otherwise pursuant to O.C.G.A. §§ 46-2-58, 46-7-90, and 46-7-91.