The Speed Trap-Jack Boot Prosecutions - What You Can Do to Oppose

Municipal Speed Trap Prosecutions by Jack-Booted Revenue-Raising Police Officers. A technique for dealing with municipal "speed-trap" prosecutions.

This (as each other case to be discussed) is a hypothetical case, used to illustrate what could be done under the circumstances hypothesized.

Let us assume that a small municipal government near a main roadway decides to finance its local government with fines to be assessed against speeding motorists.

Let us assume further that the local motorists and voters are not generally ticketed, and that the local police department compensates and promotes its youthful police officers according to the dollar amount of fines they bring in to the community.

Also, let us assume that some of the local police, generally the most aggressive "law enforcers", customize their police uniforms to make them appear like "elite" state troopers, with tailored uniforms, aviator sun glasses, yellow stripes down the legs, and jack boots.

Let's assume that the local police to some extent terrorize the local citizens sufficiently that there is no objection by local residents to what the police are doing to their town and the rights of persons in and outside of the town.

Finally, let's assume that the local policemen look for any other violations when they pick up their daily speeders, such as for having or smoking marihuana, or having crack or some other forbidden drugs.

When the speeder is pulled over by the jack-booted policeperson, the policeperson may not only issue a speeding ticket, but may conduct an illegal search of the automobile (illegal in some states, and possibly not illegal under federal law).

If any drugs are found, the second source of revenue for the town is then identified, and the victim is arrested or ticketed.

The town's expectations are to provide revenues from speeding and drug convictions, and free "community" labor in hospitals, municipal buildings and perhaps the roadways.

A way to counteract this prosecutorial abuse could be to:

  1. Serve a notice of intent to sue on each of the individuals, municipalities and government agencies involved, making sure that you get the notice in on a timely basis (because municipalities generally have short time periods for such notice, after which the right to sue on many claims will be forever barred)
  2. Move for an immediate preliminary hearing to be able to get the complaining jack-booted policeperson to commit to what he/she did as soon as possible; such a hearing is permitted under the law of some states, including New York, prior to any indictment, even if the defendant is out on bail or out on his/her own recognizance; the prosecutor might withdraw a single felony charge to avoid having to go through the preliminary hearing
  3. Move for hearings to suppress evidence taken by the jack-booted policeperson on whatever grounds exist, such as unlawful search and seizure, which will give the defendant an opportunity to gather evidence supporting police or prosecutorial misconduct
  4. Investigate the background of the municipality, policeperson and police department to see if you can dig up any dirt
  5. Move to dismiss the case for improper conduct or in the interests of justice
  6. Commence the threatened action as soon as permissible; this refers to the waiting period which a claimant often has to endure before being permitted to file suit

The possibility exists that the following result will be achieved: The municipality will drop all charges (including the speeding ticket) and the criminal defendant/victim will drop its civil lawsuit.

The municipality may determine that the cost of defending against the civil lawsuits of speed-trap/drug-trap victims far exceeds the amount of revenues raised from the speed-trap / drug-trap fines, and the prosecutorial abuses will be stopped, the jack-booted policepersons fired, and the town returned to normal means of financing itself.

It has been rumored that a town in a southern state recently terminated its entire 15-person police department because of the amount of civil litigation against the town which resulted from the speed-trap, drug-trap activities, and hired the county police department to give police protection to the town.

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Copyright © 1998 by Carl E. Person