5/24/2013Wisconsin Appeals Court Shuts Down Speeding Ticket Defenses
Wisconsin Court of Appeals denies ability to challenge validity of speed limit, necessity of ever breaking the limit.
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals on Thursday decided to shut down a motorist who won and a motorist who lost a speeding ticket case in a circuit court. The appellate judges ruled, in effect, that the validity of a speed limit can never be challenged and there is never a valid excuse for violating the limit other than saying a police officer made you do it.
Tammy Camden initially beat the charge that she was driving 92 MPH in a 55 MPH zone on March 13, 2012. Wisconsin State Trooper Daniel Breeser was running a speed trap on Highway 18 in Patch Grove when he saw Camden's vehicle and pulled her over. According to Camden, she had a stalker behind her that tailgated her, matching every move. When she moved over a lane, he did as well. When she sped up, he sped up. She argued at trial that she was "attempting to get away" from the unknown follower when she was stopped.
The finder of fact, Grant County Circuit Court Judge Craig R. Day, believed Camden to be credible. In 1982, the Wisconsin Supreme Court recognized in the case of Wisconsin v. Brown that there is a necessity defense to speeding when the police officer forced the motorist to speed. The high court ruling declined to decide whether other necessity defenses would be valid. The appeals court refused to extend the precedent on its own authority.
"Extending the 'legal justification' defense established in Brown to include causes other than law enforcement officers would be incompatible with the error-correcting function of this court," Appeals Court Judge Gary E. Sherman wrote in an unpublished ruling. "Accordingly, because the supreme court has not extended the defense of necessity to apply to civil forfeiture actions for speeding if the cause is someone or something other than a law enforcement officer, I conclude that the circuit court erred in determining that it applied in this case. The judgment of the circuit court is therefore reversed."
Jeffrey K. Crossfield had even less luck with his challenge. He lost his case before Dane County Circuit Court Judge Ellen K. Berz. He was stopped on February 23, 2012 by Sheriff's Deputy James Hodges for allegedly driving 50 MPH in a 35 MPH zone in Westport. Judge Berz threw out all of the evidence he had collected at trial regarding the traffic studies and validity of the underlying ordinance establishing the speed limit on Highway Q.
Crossfield argued the 35 MPH limit only applies in a "semiurban district" under state law, and that the section of road in question does not fit that definition. Appellate Court Judge JoAnne F. Kloppenburg said even if he was right about that interpretation, he would still be guilty. She accepted at face value the town's declaration that its engineering studies were in order and that they could not be challenged.
"Crossfield's argument remains without merit, because official signs gave Crossfield notice of the thirty-five-mile-per-hour speed limit," she ruled. "Crossfield cannot challenge his speeding citation on the grounds that he disagrees with the speed limit adopted in the local authority's discretion. It follows that the circuit court properly excluded as irrelevant any evidence as to the information that local authorities may have obtained to 'determine and declare a reasonable and safe speed limit' under Section 349.11(1)(a), including studies undertaken, measurements that were taken, and businesses or homes in the area."
The court cases are available in a 90k PDF file at the source link below.