The small town of Turbeville, South Carolina has come up with a clever way to bring a little extra revenue in: town speeding tickets.
Rather than issuing traffic citations under state guidelines, the Turbeville police department issues special town “traffic ordinances.” These ordinances often cost people up to $500, much more than state traffic violation fines.
South Carolina news station WTVM recently caught up with Turbeville Police Chief David Jones and asked him about the town’s possibly illegal ticketing policy. Jones says the high fine amounts are meant to “shock the conscience” and deter driver’s from speeding.
"If you knew on the way down from Columbia if you got stopped, you were looking at a fine of $288 or $388 and that was it, I guarantee you wouldn't be so quick to push down on that accelerator pedal," Jones said. "It should shock the conscience, shouldn't it?"
WTVM points out that if residents wanted, they could file a lawsuit against the town for not following state law for traffic violations. No one has done this, though, and there’s a good reason for it. Contrary to state guidelines, the Turbeville does not inform the South Carolina state DMV of who has been issued a traffic ordinance. So even though residents pay up to $500 for what should be a $120 ticket, they don’t have to worry about having points tacked onto their license or seeing their car insurance costs rise.
The tickets look about as official as they sound. Instead of a printed state form with regulations and disclaimers, Turbeville officers print the traffic ordinances on receipt paper and fill them in by hand. Several drivers report that they’ve been able to negotiate the price of their ticket since no state guidelines require officer’s to write a certain amount.
Columbia, South Carolina attorney Todd Kincannon sees a problem with the ticketing policy, though, and believes an unfair double standard is being applied in Turbeville that shouldn’t exist.
"Turbeville's like a troll at a bridge, you've got to write a big ol' check to just get on by," Kincannon said. "It tells me it's a scam. It tells me the city of Turbeville has come up with a revenue-generating scheme as opposed to enforcing traffic laws; that's what's going on here.”
If the traffic ordinance issue went to court, Kincannon said that he “would tell the justices that South Carolina state law has a standard here and Turbeville and every other city and county in this state has to follow that.”