While the General Assembly considers stripping some law enforcement revenue from local governments, the battle over speeding ticket revenue came to a head in a Hopewell courtroom Thursday.
City prosecutor Rick Newman moved to turn all the city’s local speeding charges into state charges, denying the city about $2 million in annual revenue. A judge rejected the plan in a closely watched hearing.
As The Progress-Index reports, General District Judge Kenneth Nye refused to allow Newman’s proposal, saying what Hopewell is doing with its local speed enforcement program is no different from other localities.
Newman’s motion set up a courtroom confrontation with the city attorney, who defended the use of local traffic charges.
The legal arguments were overshadowed by the economic implications. The Hopewell sheriff runs a traffic enforcement unit that employs deputies to ticket speeders and other traffic offenders on I-295. While the program brings in nearly $2 million a year for the city, it has saddled Hopewell with the reputation as a speed trap.
City officials told the paper Newman’s plan would eliminate that money and lead to layoffs of more than a dozen deputies. They accused Newman of a power play to force more local spending for his office, a charge which Newman denied.
Newman said he would appeal Nye’s ruling, setting up a rematch in circuit court.
A February official opinion from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli laid the groundwork for Newman’s motion. Cuccinelli said a prosecutor could ask to amend local charges to state charges, but the action would need approval by a judge.
By Peter Vieth