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Speeding ticket rulings based on evidence


I take issue with allegations that Robert South makes in his letter to the editor (“We must obey and enforce laws or repeal them,” Sept. 22).

Therein, he claims that “law enforcement officers are routinely instructed that they don’t have to (read, may not) ticket anyone going less than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit.

“This is partly a product of the fact that courts tend to throw out cases if the speed is even close to ambiguous.

“But due to this norm, judges throw out additional cases based on the idea that anybody pulled over for less than 10 over was being picked on.”

Based upon my roughly 36 years as Watertown City Court judge and as an assistant Jefferson County district attorney, I must disagree.

As an ADA, I prosecuted speeding offenses involving various police agencies before numerous village and town courts.

During that time, I never heard of being obliged by policy to ticket only speeders going at least 10 miles per hour over the post limit.

Nor did I ever see a judge throw out a speeding case that was “even close to ambiguous” or based on an assumption that a person issued a speeding ticket for less than 10 miles per hour over the limit “was being picked on.”

Nor once I became judge in 1986 did I ever dismiss a speeding case for those reasons.

So long as the officer at trial has credible, admissible evidence to support an allegation of speed in excess of the posted limit, whether it be one mileper hour or 100 miles per hour, the court has evidence to convict the defendant.

On the other hand, if the evidence at trial fails to support each element of the claim beyond a reasonable doubt, the court must dismiss the speeding charge.

Any judge who dismisses a speeding ticket because he or she feels the motorist was being “picked on” because the alleged speed was less than 10 miles per hour over the limit and/or because the “speed is even close to ambiguous” violates judicial ethics and invites professional discipline.

Hon. James C. Harberson Jr.


The author served as a judge in the Watertown City Court system from 1986 to 2011.

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