Diana Brown, with the help of her husband, NMA Activist Ron Brown, has spent over two years fighting an unjustified speeding ticket she received in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Diana was ticketed for speeding while entering the city on a divided, “interstate-like” highway, which has a totally ridiculous 45-mph speed limit.
Diana and Ron decided to challenge the legality of this underposted speed limit, and they prepared a defense based on the engineering-study requirements found in the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The Browns filed a motion asking the court to exclude the speed limit sign from evidence because it was not supported by an engineering study. In response, the prosecution filed a motion asking the court to bar them from presenting evidence related to the MUTCD or engineering studies.
In the end, judges at both the municipal and circuit court level refused to hear the Browns’ argument about the illegal nature of the speed limit. That’s right, they were actually prevented from discussing federal regulations, which were already recognized in Tennessee as a matter of law! Since they could not talk about the MUTCD in court, Diana lost her case.
The couple had already spent over $1,500 on the case, and now an appeal was their only chance for victory, but it was too expensive. That’s when the NMA Foundation stepped in and awarded the Browns a Legal Aid Grant of $1,000 so they could appeal Diana’s case.
In August 2005, the Appeals Court of Tennessee ruled that while a speed limit sign is presumed to show the legal speed limit, a driver charged with speeding may challenge the legality of the posted speed limit. However, the court declined to specify what sort of proof is needed to show that a speed limit is illegal. The opinion states, “It will be the defendant’s obligation to rebut the presumption by proving that the posted speed limit was not properly established.” So, Diana’s conviction was not overturned, her case is simply going to be retried in the lower court, but this time, she will be allowed to challenge the speed limit’s legality.
During the course of their legal fight, Ron became the NMA’s Tennessee Activist. He also made a special bid to the Oak Ridge City Council, urging them to change the city’s illegally-posted speed limits. To apply pressure on the council, he has unveiled a new web site, www.sueoakridge.com. Ron’s site encourages others to sue the city for posting illegal speed limits. This ensures that even if the criminal trial fails to meet our hopes, civil suits may still accomplish our goals.
Our rights are too important to leave to chance. Help support cases like Diana and Ron’s now!