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State high court denies Carmel's request to hear traffic law case

April 19, 2016

A lower court ruling that struck down a controversial Carmel traffic law will stand.

The Indiana Supreme Court has decided it will not hear arguments in the case, which involves thousands of speeding citations. That leaves in place a ruling from the Indiana Court of Appeals, which decided in December that the city’s local traffic code violated Indiana’s Home Rule act.

“Carmel’s wholesale adoption of chapters of Indiana code resulted in its ordinance being nothing more than a ‘duplicate’ of already existing state law,” the ruling from the Court of Appeals stated.

Carmel appealed the case to the state’s high court at the beginning of the year, arguing that keeping the ordinance void would cause “immediate and severe consequences.”

Attorneys for Carmel have maintained that local communities have the power to enforce and set speed limits and collect fines from local traffic violations.

The Court of Appeals agreed that local municipalities can adjust speed limits in construction zones, but said the fines must go to the state instead of the local government.

According to court documents, Carmel police have issued 10,281 traffic citations in the past three years, and 8,124 of those were for speeding violations.

The state Supreme Court denied Carmel’s request April 12.

A Carmel spokesman said Tuesday morning that the city wouldn’t comment on the decision until the city attorney reviewed the opinion.

The case involved Jason Maraman, who was cited for traveling 30 mph in a 20 mph construction zone, and fought to dismiss the citation at the trial court level. Maraman argued that the city’s code was a duplicate of state code, but the court ruled in favor of Carmel.

The court of appeals reversed the lower court decision. That ruling will now stand.

But Carmel’s legal issues surrounding the traffic ordinance are not settled yet. The city is also defending itself in a class-action lawsuit in Indianapolis federal court.

Attorney Edward Bielski, president of Bielski Law LLC and a former partner of Stewart & Irwin PC, filed the case on Dec. 30, believing it could involve thousands of traffic tickets and individuals who were fined in 2014 and 2015. 

The complaint argues the city knowingly enforced an illegal traffic ordinance and wrongly collected money from citations based on the infractions “for the purpose of maximizing revenue to the city of Carmel.” It also alleges the city should have been required to share that revenue with the county and state.

The city is arguing to dismiss the case, saying the federal court does not have jurisdiction.

The federal court has not issued any decisions yet or set hearing dates.

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