Occasionally, there is justice. Not this time. Not yet, anyway.
The justification for imposing fines for speeding is to get a fund to pay victims of hit-and-run accidents. The idea of victim’s rights should determine fines.
In practice, police departments use fines as a revenue source. This is a perversion of the law. It is also universal.
A town in Oklahoma (population 600) has been handing out speeding violations for decades. But the town council made a mistake. By state law, it had to publish its laws and fine schedule. If it failed to do this within 14 days, the fines have to be returned. Guess what? The laws were never posted. Since 1977.
Oh, dear. Big, big oh, dear.
The town is so tiny that it has no police force. It outsourced its speed trapping operation. It rented county sheriff’s deputies at $5,500 a month. To make this pay, the deputies had to hand out a lot of tickets. They were up to the task.
Then the town got caught breaking the law. It had failed to publish the fine schedule. There was an outside audit of the entire operation.
“Any ordinances (other than those pertaining to the appropriation of money) that are not published within 15 days of their passage are not in force,” notes the audit. As a result, “the municipal court should not have collected fines of more than $50. The court has over-collected approximately $106,308 in fines through the end of June 2011”; in addition, the court also “over-collected” nearly $8,000 in court costs. The auditor directed the Bernice Town Board to reimburse those who had been subjected to illegal fines (in one instance, a motorist was given a ticket for $545).
The town’s attorney responded as any good attorney would: he said that the town council had meant well. He admitted that the town “did not follow the strict technical requires for publication [of the traffic ordinance], the public clearly had constructive notice of the existence of the Bernice Penal Code. . . .” In short, it’s the thought that counts.
So, the town’s board has voted to keep the money. It took the vote in a closed meeting, which violated the state’s Open Meeting Act.
Towns like this are ripe for a training program for local Tea Party members. It would not take much to take over a town like this.