After the Indiana State Court of Appeals overturned a traffic ordinance in Carmel, an attorney is now filing a class action lawsuit for anyone who received a ticket under Carmel’s provisions.
The issue isn’t about what the speed limit should be, but rather who should get the money from the tickets. The State of Indiana has a law against driving faster than 20 miles per hour in construction zones, and the City of Carmel referenced that law in a local ordinance so Carmel could collect the money themselves and receive a bigger portion of the revenue. After the ruling, Carmel police officers have still been writing tickets, but under the state code instead.
An Indianapolis attorney filed a class-action lawsuit Dec. 30 against the ordinance in federal court but the court hasn’t decided whether to grant class action status.
Attorney Edward G. Bielski said he has two plaintiffs officially named as a part of the suit so far, but 20 or 30 people have called him recently after the issue received media coverage to join in on the lawsuit.
“As you can imagine, my phone is ringing off the hook,” he said.
He said the amounts can range from a few hundred dollars in costs, but he said there are other costs he’ll explore such as personal damages caused by points on one’s driver’s license and other inconveniences. He said he understands that some of the people might have been speeding, but he believes they were charged under an ordinance that has no legal standing.
“They have never been charged with a valid crime,” he said. “Carmel has been hijacking the code and calling everything an ordinance. Carmel took the shortcut.”
Bielski said he believes you can’t be responsible for breaking a law that wasn’t properly written or was thrown out by the Court of Appeals. He feels that Carmel has done whatever it wants when it comes to traffic violations.
He believes Carmel will try to amend tickets so they can claim it is a valid charge under state law instead of Carmel’s ordinance, but Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said the city is reviewing the Court of Appeals ruling and he believes the city can win. In the future, Carmel could rewrite its ordinances so it doesn’t run into this conflict with state law but still collect its own traffic revenue. Brainard noted that the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns has been closely following this issue and he believes many other cities back Carmel in their effort to write their own laws separate from the state. The mayor emphasized that motorists can still get tickets in Carmel despite the court’s ruling.