Speed limit sign

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Jefferson County Attorney's office has asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to rule that the state’s speeding laws are constitutional, overruling a local judge's order in September.

Jefferson District Court Judge Julie Kaelin ruled three major sections of state law that govern speeding are unconstitutionally vague and eventually dismissed a case against a man cited on Interstate 71 last year for driving 93 miles per hour in an area with a posted speed limit of 55.

Attorney Greg Simms, who represented the man, had argued that speeding laws are “not reasonably clear” and confusing, in part, because speed limit signs aren't referenced in Kentucky law in any way.

While Kaelin's ruling on the unconstitutionality of the speeding law currently only applies to her courtroom, the county attorney’s office said the issue has since been raised in at least 10 speeding cases in front of six other judges.

A review by the state’s highest court would “put to rest the unnecessary uncertainty created by the unwarranted and erroneous” ruling, Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell wrote in a Nov. 25 motion.

“Only this Court can provide the ‘authoritative determination’ necessary to correct the erroneous statement of the law than now infects the Commonwealth’s proper enforcement efforts,” O’Connell wrote, asking the Supreme Court justices to intervene and certify the law.

At issues is the case of Kevin Curry, a Greensburg, Kentucky, man who was ticketed for going more than 26 miles per hour above the posted 55 mile-per-hour speed limit.

Following Simms’ arguments, Kaelin ruled, in part, that speed limit signs aren’t even mentioned in Kentucky’s speeding law, and in many cases those signs conflict with the law.

Curry then tried to plead guilty to the lone part of the statute that remained: driving faster than what is "reasonable and prudent, having no regard for the traffic and for the condition and use of the highway."

But the judge — and prosecutors — realized there is a problem with that part of the law. Legislators didn't include a penalty for driving that way.

Prosecutors argued that Kaelin's ruling on the speeding law is erroneous but conceded she had the authority to dismiss the case instead of accepting a guilty plea to a different part of the speeding law.

Kaelin dismissed the case in October.

In last week's motion, the county attorney’s office said Kaelin's ruling was unsupported by both the law and facts, arguing, in essence, that Kentucky’s speeding laws are a matter of common sense and have been “for well over a century.”

“Everyone knows it is against the law to drive 93 miles per hour anywhere on Kentucky’s highways,” the motion says.

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Digital Reporter

Jason Riley is a criminal justice reporter for WDRB.com. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after 14 years with The Courier-Journal. He graduated from Western Kentucky University. Jason can be reached at 502-585-0823 and jriley@wdrb.com.