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Norwood truck case headed back to court for appeal

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NORWOOD — The ongoing battle over weight limits on village streets is headed to St. Lawrence County Court.

In June, the Canton Town Court ruled that Norwood’s 8-ton weight limit was unreasonable, because it forced drivers for a village trucking company to take a detour of more than 20 miles to follow the law. Norwood has filed an appeal against the ruling in County Court.

The initial case started in January, when business owner G. Michael Knowlton was issued a summons for driving his heavy salt trucks on village roads.

Mr. Knowlton violated the law on purpose, he said, hoping to prompt a court battle that would overturn the law. He operates a trucking business in Norwood, and has long driven his heavy trucks on village roads. This did not cause a problem until September, when the village decided to start enforcing its long-standing 8-ton weight limit.

Last month’s ruling was a victory for him, but soon he will be headed back to court.

The prosecution is not usually allowed to appeal a ruling, but this case is unusual, according to Assistant District Attorney Alexander Lesyk, who is representing the village in the appeal.

In the initial court ruling, Canton Town Justice Cathleen E. O’Horo agreed that Mr. Knowlton had violated village law. However, the law itself was unreasonable, she ruled, by forcing Mr. Knowlton to travel miles out of his way to operate his business.

“The court never really issued a verdict. The court basically said that the statue itself was unreasonable, and I interpret that as unconstitutional,” Mr. Lesyk said.

In a normal court case, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor to prove the guilt of the defendant. But in order to overturn a law, that burden shifts to whoever is arguing that the law is unjust.

The village and Mr. Lesyk believe there was not enough evidence to justify overturning the law.

“If someone wants to establish that a statute is unconstitutional, that burden is on the person that is claiming that it is unreasonable or unconstitutional. And I haven’t seen anything to indicate that the burden was met,” Mr. Lesyk said.

Mr. Lesyk and the County Court are still waiting for transcripts of the original court proceedings before scheduling a hearing for the appeal.

If the village wins the appeal, it does not mean Mr. Knowlton will be ruled guilty. Instead, the original case will have to go back to court to be retried.

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