Speed limit sign

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Jefferson County Attorney's office said Thursday it will appeal a Louisville judge's September ruling that Kentucky's speeding laws are unconstitutional. 

The challenge most likely will head to the Kentucky Supreme Court, forcing justices on the state's highest court to review a convoluted case that for now only applies to a single judge in Jefferson County -- District Judge Julie Kaelin.

"The judge's ruling defies public safety and common sense and we will proceed immediately with the appellate courts," County Attorney Mike O'Connell said in a statement Thursday.

The statement followed an unusual hearing Thursday where Kaelin rejected a Louisville man's request to plead guilty in a speeding case, in large part because prosecutors argued the plea wasn't allowed by law.

Instead the judge dismissed the case against Kevin Curry, who was cited on Interstate 71 last October for driving 93 miles per hour in an area with a posted speed limit of 55.

"I am quite satisfied the county attorney won the argument and dismissal," said a smiling defense attorney Greg Simms, who represented Kevin Curry in the speeding case and argued the law was unconstitutional. 

The bizarre outcome follows Kaelin's Sept. 19 ruling in the case declaring major sections of the speed limit law unconstitutional, finding the law doesn’t clearly define speed limits.

Simms had argued Kentucky's speeding laws are "convoluted" and unclear and Kaelin agreed, finding, in part, that speed limit signs aren't referenced in Kentucky law in any way.

While Kaelin expected the Jefferson County Attorney’s office to appeal the decision, Simms had another idea, to have Curry plead guilty to the lone part of the statute that remained: Driving faster than what is "reasonable and prudent, having regard for the traffic and for the condition and use of the highway."

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

Kaelin had postponed the case, giving lawyers more time to make their arguments before she decided how to proceed.

Simms filed a motion arguing Curry should be able to plead guilty to the lone part of the speeding law Kaelin found constitutional - and pay no penalty.

But the Jefferson County Attorney's office argued Curry was charged with driving more than 26 miles per hour over the speed limit – part of the law the judge found unconstitutional.

Curry, according to the office, could not amend his charge to the lone section of the law remaining without the agreement of prosecutors.

"The Commonwealth is not and will not be moving for any amendment to the charged offense," Assistant County Attorney Casey Holland wrote in a motion.

Prosecutors argued that Kaelin's ruling on the speeding law is erroneous but "reluctantly" 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.

Kaelin's ruling on the unconstitutionality of the speeding law currently only applies to her courtroom.

Kaelin recently rotated out of that courtroom, with District Court Judge David Bowles taking her place.

Simms said he believes Bowles must follow Kaelin's ruling finding the speeding law unconstitutional, and he has filed a similar motion in a different speeding case that will be heard by Bowles.

"I believe it is binding (in that courtroom,)" Simms said.

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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.