It is rare for individuals to dispute speeding tickets, because most people will simply pay them. It is even rarer that a disputed speeding ticket is decided in favor of the motorist, primarily because of the low level of burden of proof (preponderance of the evidence) that the State needs to prove. However, a recent Indiana Appellate court decision held that because there were no speed limit signs along the northbound lane of Leesville Road, the county did not follow the proper procedure in providing notice to motorists; therefore, the driver could not be found in violation of an alleged speed limit. Coleman v. State, 2016 WL 225424.
Coleman, the driver, was driving northbound on Leesville Road in Lawrence County at proximately 46 miles per hour, when he was pulled over for allegedly speeding. Id. at 1. The patrolling law enforcement officer stated that Coleman was speeding because the speed limit according to the southbound sign along Leesville Road was 35 miles per hour. Id.
Under Indiana law (Ind. Code § 9-21-5-2) the default speed limit for county roads is 55 miles per hour, unless the county enacts to change it pursuant to Ind. Code § 9-21-5-6. Id. at 2. If a county, like Lawrence County, elects to change the default speed limit, the county must erect signs giving notice to the altered limit on the street or highway. Id. However, it was undisputed by both Coleman and by the State that “[t]here was no traffic control devices or speed limit signs for [n]orthbound traffic on Leesville Road.” Id. at 1.
Coleman alluded to the fact that the speed limit sign along Leesville Road was only on the southbound side, because it was illegally erected by a private citizen and not by Lawrence County’s official actions. Id. at 1. The court stated that this fact is not necessarily determinative, because even if the southbound sign was valid there still was no speed limit sign controlling the northbound traffic along Leesville Road. Id. at 3.
Therefore, because there was no speed limit sign along the northbound lane of Leesville Road, the default speed limit under Indiana was applicable, which is 55 miles per hour. Id. Thus, Coleman who was traveling at a rate of 46 miles per hour along the northbound lane of Leesville Road was actually driving under the speed limit, rather than above the speed limit. Id. The Appellate Court reversed the lower court holding that Coleman did not exceed the applicable speed. Id.
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