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Town bypasses state traffic law, fleeces drivers

Drivers who have been ticketed for speeding and other traffic citations could be off the hook thanks to the results of an investigation in the town of Turbeville. Authorities say the town lawmakers created their own system for punishing violators that is in direct conflict with traffic laws throughout the state. Now, experts in the field say that the town's extraordinary punishment and vague regulations could lead to a lawsuit that could cost the municipality millions.

Inquiry into the town's traffic laws showed that Turbeville officials voted to add extra protective measures to prevent reckless driving in their town. In 2003, these lawmakers passed an ordinance that prohibits drivers from operating their vehicles without "care, caution and full regard for safety of persons and property." Speeding was deemed a reckless driving offense under this law. As a result, drivers who sped could be charged up to $500 for tickets. They also faced up to a month in jail simply for driving too fast.

Drivers who have been cited for speeding in the town say an average ticket cost them between $288 to $388, depending on the nature of the offense. Interestingly, officers were instructed to tell drivers that paying the fine would remove any risk of adding points to their license. This directly violates state law, which requires that drivers be punished with these additional points whenever a moving violation occurs. The town ordinance, therefore, exists outside of state law, which could be a serious concern for legislators.

Further investigation into the matter shows that police officers may have been negotiating with drivers. One news report indicated that a driver was given a "deal" from a police sergeant when he was pulled over for speeding. The officer threatened to arrest the driver if he did not agree to a fine of $488 for speeding.

In this case, the town attempted to take traffic law into its own hands, ignoring state mandates in order to fill its own coffers. Drivers who have been cited in this municipality could be entitled to compensation for their exorbitant ticket costs, along with other benefits. Those who were not given the opportunity to mount a proper traffic defense could be vindicated, after all.

www.wistv.com, "WIS investigates: Town uses own speeding law, drivers could face up to $500 fines or jail time" Jody Barr, Sep. 18, 2013

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