8/23/2018Arkansas Town Banned From Issuing Speeding Tickets
Judge finds Damascus, Arkansas guilty of violating the state anti-speed trap law.
After a year-long attempt to save its ability to issue speeding tickets, the notorious speed trap town of Damascus, Arkansas, has officially been declared a scofflaw. Circuit Court Judge Chris Carnahan last week struck down the legal challenge Damascus mayor L.B. Pavatt mounted in the hopes of restoring the town of 379's most important source of revenue.
"The plaintiffs, by clear and convincing evidence, are found to be in violation of the Arkansas speed trap law," Judge Carnahan ruled. "The declaratory relief prayed for by plaintiffs hereby is denied, and this matter is dismissed with prejudice."
Pavatt had insisted that public safety would be placed at great risk unless his officers were allowed to continue using radar guns on US Highway 65, which runs through Damascus for 1.6 miles. In the past, the city raised $450,121 in fines from motorists surprised that the road's 60 MPH speed limit suddenly dropped to 45 MPH, an amount nearly equal to the $505,575 that the town spent on city services.
Last year, then-Faulkner County prosecutor Cody Hiland saw no choice but to apply the state's speed trap law which imposes sanctions on municipalities that collect more than 30 percent of their annual budget from speeding tickets. Hiland reviewed the town's income ledger and declared that the police department abused its authority. As a result, the town has been forbidden from patrolling US65 since May 2017.
Pavatt recalculated the town's traffic ticket revenue and insisted that the state's total was inflated by $40,000. He also insisted that the speed trap law was unconstitutionally vague and violated the town's right to due process. The prosecuting attorney explained that those rights only apply to the public.
"The city, as a creation of the legislature, is not afforded such constitutional protections," Hiland explained at the time. "The city has no standing to challenge the constitutionality of the statute on Due Process Clause or Fourteenth Amendment grounds."
The court agreed on all counts with the prosecuting attorney, who was sworn in as the US attorney for Arkansas in October. The prohibition on issuing tickets will stand until January 1.