Federal lawsuit targets 'overzealous' speed trap

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ARCADE, Ga.  — Ten police officers used to roam the busy stretch of highway that slices through this tiny Georgia town near Athens, writing traffic tickets that helped pay for a spacious city complex but also infuriated local businesses and repulsed drivers.



Arcade's residents hoped they had put the reputation behind them after the Georgia State Patrol cleared the city of speed trap allegations and a new police chief downsized the department. But the issue re-emerged, this time in the form of a federal lawsuit filed by a frustrated driver.

"Someone had to finally take a stand for all those who have been targeted by the city of Arcade police," said Joe Moses, a retired dentist who filed the complaint in December. It contends officers used "overzealous and improper tactics in creating a speed trap" along U.S. Highway 129.

Residents have grown used to the allegations. The National Speed Trap Exchange warns drivers to take caution when rolling through the city of 1,900 about 13 miles northwest of Athens. And the Georgia State Patrol investigated the city three times between 1997 and 2005, each time concluding the police department was not running a speed trap.

"It's made people scared to death to go through Arcade," said Darlene Craven, the owner of Darlene's Family Hair Care and Tanning Salon, which sits along Arcade's main road.

Police Chief Randy Williams, who took the department's reins in 2008, said he's cut the department down to a lean staff of four officers that's dedicated to community policing and crime prevention.

"Traffic is part of policing, and I like officers to be seen," he said. "But we just tell them to enforce the law."

City attorney Jody Campbell declined to comment on the pending lawsuit, and the city has yet to respond to the complaint in court. The city's mayor did not return several messages seeking comment.

While the state investigation could have stripped the right of local police officers to use radar detectors, the federal lawsuit could carry other penalties. It seeks punitive damages, a jury trial and Moses' attorneys hope to broaden the complaint to include others who feel they were unjustly pulled over in Arcade.

"We intend to explore this apparent speed trap, and find others who have been unjustly caught in its net," said Craig Goodmark, an attorney who joined civil rights attorney Gerry Weber in representing Moses.

Moses was driving home from visiting his daughter in Athens on a foggy December 2008 night when he noticed a police car trailing him, he said in the complaint.

He pulled to the side of the road after driving a few hundred yards to let the squad car drive by him, only to watch the officer pull behind him, he said. First, he said he was cited for driving too slowly. And when he objected, Moses said the officer tagged him with another citation: Failing to have working tag lights.

Moses claims both citations were erroneous. And he said that he asked two police officers in a nearby town to check his tag lights 30 minutes later, and both confirmed in writing that his lights complied with state requirements.

Even with a downsized police force, Arcade still earns a hefty chunk of its revenue from traffic fines.

Some $192,000 of the city's $675,000 total revenues in 2009 came from fines and forfeitures, according to a Georgia Department of Audits review. In 2008, the city reaped more than $380,000 in revenues from fines and forfeitures, about 40 percent of the total revenue collected that year, according to the audit.

Connie Whitey, who has lived in town since 1991, said she hopes the lawsuit doesn't stoke new fears about her town. She said during the police force's heyday, revenue at her liquor store Bulldog Package dropped 40 percent as drivers steered clear of Arcade.

"What did we need 10 police officers for? They ruined the name of Arcade, and it's taken us years to rebuild," she said. "Arcade definitely was a speed trap. It still can be, but it's not as bad as before."

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bclicious
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bclicious 12/31/10 - 12:14 pm
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If these guys were writing

If these guys were writing bad tickets, then it serves them right. But if they were merely enforcing traffic laws, then no problem.

With that, every officer could use a refresher course in officer discretion.

airbud7
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airbud7 12/31/10 - 02:35 pm
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It's the sorry, no good,

It's the sorry, no good, piece of crap police officers like this that give the good police officers a bad name...

Sweet son
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Sweet son 12/31/10 - 03:28 pm
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Sounds like it could be one

Sounds like it could be one of the stand alone cities in Columbia County.

Iamrightyouarewrong
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Iamrightyouarewrong 12/31/10 - 04:29 pm
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I see just the opposite in

I see just the opposite in Richmond County.....Very seldom have I ever seen a RC officer pulling over a motorist and writing a citation...Other than Sunday mornings on Bobby Jones Expressway that is. I-20 has become dangerous because of LACK of enforcement. I routinely see 18 wheelers running close to 80 mph and motorists racing to pass others before the left lane ends heading into SC then cutting over quickly and dangerously. I won't even start on the number of RC officers who routinely ignore traffic laws themselves....I'm beginning to wonder if ANY of their cars have working turn signals......

microprill
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microprill 12/31/10 - 05:15 pm
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sounds like North Augusta,

sounds like North Augusta, Martintown Rd

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
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Crime Reports and Rewards TV 12/31/10 - 06:00 pm
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The Feds have been

The Feds have been investigating N.A. for lots worse than the obvious illegal speed traps they grub money with. They committed the jail-able offence of lying to a whole bunch of feds then covered it up and are still committing felony after felony each time they lie to the feds. That tax using child molester & his wife who molested all those kids? They looked the other way because they were SOME OF THEIR COCONSPIRITORS & allowed them to molest a RECORD amount of kids. Now they are endangering the public by letting all these robbers go in favor of the much more profitable speed traps they grub money with. Now N. Augusta has more fleeing and evading felons per capita than any city around, all because of GREED. They make money on traffic tickets. It cost them money to house robbers & child molesters so the real dangerous criminals stay free.

Asitisinaug
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Asitisinaug 12/31/10 - 07:12 pm
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If the police department

If the police department was/is using illegal or improper tactics then deal with them appropriately and remove them from office or enforcement. There is nothing worse for law enforcement as a whole then bad cops or leaders who abuse their powers.

However, if the police were simply practicing agressive traffic enforcement then tell the complaintants to follow the law.

Most departments give you 5 or more miles for errors, etc. and frankly if you are driving faster than that or have other violations then you deserve what you get and should learn to correct the behavior.

The Governors Office of Highway Safety statistics clearly show that in any areas with stretches of highway where agressive traffic enforcement is legally conducted that auto accidents and deaths are reduced.

If you have been the victim of an agressive driver or a speeder who lost control and caused you to wreck and/or injured or killed a family member or friend then you certainly understand and support firm traffic enforcement.

It's not like you don't know the laws or see the speed limit signs, etc. prior to driving.

bclicious
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bclicious 12/31/10 - 11:00 pm
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I think a big part of the

I think a big part of the problem is that most Georgia residents do not know and understand any of the criminal or traffic laws.

shamrock
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shamrock 01/01/11 - 01:47 am
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Can you say Ludowici??

Can you say Ludowici??

common-sense-justice
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common-sense-justice 01/01/11 - 01:59 am
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Whoever heard of a "Driving

Whoever heard of a "Driving too slowly" law except on Interstates anyway ????

usapatriot
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usapatriot 01/01/11 - 04:12 am
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this is a state jurisdiction.

this is a state jurisdiction. the federal govt has no business being in this unless it has to do with state corruption.

bclicious
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bclicious 01/01/11 - 05:37 am
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This would be an easy

This would be an easy accusation to either prove or disprove if you used undercover law enforcement officers to check the validity of Arcade's citations. Merely have a series of undercover officers to drive through the city at various times, dates, etc with a GPS that records the vehicle's position and speed in real time. Then with hidden cameras in place, see what happens when the undercover officers are pulled over.

Use this method periodically over a 6 month period. If anything is outa whack, this would surely reveal it.

Asitisinaug
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Asitisinaug 01/01/11 - 06:55 am
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bclisious, good suggestion

bclisious, good suggestion and thats exactly what part of the Georgia State Patrol investigation did on more than 3 occassions, all of which found the department to be agressive but within proper guidelines.

This is more than likely someone who doesn't agree with strick law enforcement. The ruling is out, there could have been a bad officer or officers but generally speaking, they get caught, turned in by others and removed.

TeamLoser
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TeamLoser 01/01/11 - 09:47 am
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It seems that in RC ignoring

It seems that in RC ignoring traffic laws is a perk of the job. I have seen police cars turn on their lights to get through a red light or make a left turn on a busy street. One morning I watched a RCSO car turn on its lights to go through a red light so they could pull into BoJangles, when I got to BoJangles after waiting through a light I saw the officer sitting down eating breakfast.

Morgan county on I20 is bad, I have had GSP tailgate me with bright lights before when I am doing the speed limit, at that point I slow down to 45mph and set the cruise control and after a few minutes they will pass you.

WW1949
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WW1949 01/01/11 - 10:41 am
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Just this past week a North

Just this past week a North Augusta Police car was parked at the bottom of the 13th street bridge in the parking lot of NuRoofs which is in Ga with his radar gun pointed toward SC. This is highly unethical since he does not have authority in GA. Belicious, is it true that an officer in SC cannot follow you from SC to GA and write a traffic ticket for speeding comming into GA out of SC. They sit right on the line to catch people just getting onto the 13th street bridge. My attorney says they cannot write the ticket. Who is right?

bettyboop
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bettyboop 01/01/11 - 11:16 am
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Thankyou

Thankyou usapatriot!...Another example of the feds encroaching on local laws.....better watch out!

WW1949
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WW1949 01/01/11 - 12:06 pm
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TeamLoser, same thing

TeamLoser, same thing happened to me in Pelion, SC a few yars ago. A police cruiser came up behind me while on the way back from a game in Columbia with his bright lights on. He was tailgating and scared my date and myself. When I speeded up to get away from him the blue lights came on and he gave me a ticket. I was not speeding until I tried to put some distance between us. Crooked patrolman in a small town raising revenue. I avoid Pelion all the time now.

bclicious
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bclicious 01/01/11 - 12:23 pm
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WW1949, My radar

WW1949,

My radar certification is only good in the state of Georgia; furthermore, my police certification is good in the state of Georgia. Granted there are always exceptions to the rules such as forcible felonies, but within the scope of traffic law as a Georgia Police officer, I cannot enforce Georgia law in south carolina and vice versa.

If a south carolina officer is pointing his radar gun into Georgia, and is using that for the basis of his/her stops, then they are playing with fire. With that, it is possible for an officer to use his front radar pointing into Georgia showing that you were going a certain speed and then reconfirm that with their rear antenna once you are in south carolina. I would feel more comfortable with that if I were working traffic in South Carolina.

Asitisinaug
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Asitisinaug 01/01/11 - 06:49 pm
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Team Loser, your assumptions

Team Loser, your assumptions MAY be correct or it could be the officer was responding to a call and then it was cancelled. If you truely think the officer was just using his blue lights to get to breakfast faster (very doubtful) then simply call the Sheriff's Office with his car number and a supervisor will follow up. Most deputies don't wish to loose their job over improper use of their blue lights.

Crabby Appleton
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Crabby Appleton 01/01/11 - 08:10 pm
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While enforcing traffic laws

While enforcing traffic laws is important, it should be of concern that so much of the town's income depends on those officers writing tickets. That's wrong. Perhaps the way to solve the problem with the speed trap is for everyone to starve the town's ability to pay so many police officers. Concentrate on obeying the law for a year or so and the town will go bankrupt. Sounds like a good plan to me.

Of course the town can erase their "black eye" by electing a sheriff who balances his priorities and councilmen who can live within their budgets without getting so much revenue from the sheriff.

yasper21
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yasper21 01/02/11 - 02:32 am
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I've seen a NA Police officer

I've seen a NA Police officer pass a car in the intersection of Reynolds St and 13th street, turn his lights on, do a U Turn in the intersection and pull the driver over in Wine World's parking lot. I pulled over to speak with the driver when everything was finished between the two but the officer instructed me to leave immediately or get a ticket of my own. I left.

tyw
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tyw 01/02/11 - 03:18 am
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It really shouldn't surprise

It really shouldn't surprise anyone that small towns play dirty just to get more revenue. Over the summer I got caught up in a speed trap in Soperton, GA while on a road trip. So I went to court and pleaded guilty in hopes to get it lowered some. I ended up with a year of probation, and fines totaling in $1400. That was my second ticket in over a year apart and in my life. Obviously it's all for public safety's sake.

usapatriot
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usapatriot 01/02/11 - 03:52 am
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looking back again at this

looking back again at this article and my fellow blogger's posts, I see:

1) this is an AP article.

2) none of you seem bothered that the article says a "federal" suit has been filed. I admire many of you who post here and respect your opinion. Where is your concern about this being a "federal" case rather than a state case?

Are you automatically assuming that the state cannot handle this? Are you welcoming in the federal judiciary into a matter involving a GA municipality? These sort of "traps" are abound in USA. I am retired military and now a trucker. I have been around. I could share stories too, but that's not the point.

The point is "FEDERAL" law suit. That doesn't belong in this case nor many others. Let's get this wrong righted also.

Asitisinaug
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Asitisinaug 01/02/11 - 07:53 am
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USAPatriot, I totally agree

USAPatriot, I totally agree that it is not a federal case. However, once filed as such, not much can be done until it reaches the courts.

WW1949
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WW1949 01/02/11 - 10:34 am
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yasper, why didn't you take a

yasper, why didn't you take a picture of this and complain to the state police. NA police have no business in GA unless they are chaseing a felon. The person who was stopped in Wine World should also get a jury trial. I do not believe a jury would convict them. The officer should also be fired. NA is known for agressive enforcement. They sit in the middle of Martintown Rd at I-20 just before going into Edgefield County with the radar all the time.

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