Judge questions County Attorney's traffic school - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Judge questions County Attorney's traffic school

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Louisville, Ky (WDRB News) -- If you think traffic school will keep you away from the courtroom, think again. A district court judge is challenging aspects of a Jefferson county-run traffic school, and ultimately challenging state law.

Under legislation passed nearly one year ago, Kentucky county attorneys can operate traffic schools and dismiss cases without making the defendant go to court. But Judge Ann Bailey Smith has a problem with that.

Tim Higgins says he isn't generally a man of speed, but did get caught going too fast during a morning commute back in March.

"I was going from a 55 to a 45 mile per hour zone, doing 60 in a 55, and then suddenly doing 60 in a 45 and ultimately driving too fast."

Recognizing that he broke the law, Higgins did what hundreds of others have done and registered for the "Drive Safe Louisville" program.

"This gives citizens another opportunity to pass an online course and not have to go to traffic court," said Higgins.

Through the program, traffic violators can take the course without having to enter a plea, or pay court fees. But Judge Bailey Smith has a problem with that.

"I don't particularly believe court costs involve the prosecution of this case, that is between the court and the defendant, not the county, the prosecution, and the defendant," said Bailey Smith. In court Monday, the judge likened County Attorney Mike O'Connell's program to a diversion program, which she says, requires court involvement.

"You tried to say that your program wasn't a diversion, but then you likened yours to those across the commonwealth, and those county attorneys all seem to think it is a diversion program."

O'Connell says the law grants him power to dismiss cases without going to court.

"The law in this state is clear that the commonwealth has the authority to dismiss cases unless the court can somehow demonstrate that it is against manifest public interest to do so."

In letters addressed to the County Attorney - the Kentucky Attorney General agrees with Mr. O'Connell, as does a co-author of the bill that allows such programs.

"It was never his intention that court costs be imposed in these cases."

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