Judge Edward L. Hogshire has denied a motion to dismiss decisions by the Charlottesville General District Court made against six people accused of speeding
on the Route 250 Bypass, all of whom claim their rights have been violated.
A trial for the six defendants — Michael J. Tocci, Marcela T. Liguria, John Francis Valosky, Bonnie E. Baird, John E. Curry IV and Turner Barringer — is set for 8:30 a.m. Aug. 3 in Charlottesville Circuit Court.
The defendants, all cited
for driving 50-54 miles per hour in a 35 miles per hour zone in the 300-600 blocks of the bypass between Oct. 13, 2010 and April 24, argued their cases should be dismissed on constitutional and statutory grounds, according to a decision written by Hogshire.
The six said their due process rights were violated because the city has not shown a copy of the traffic and engineering study required to legally apply a 35 miles per hour speed limit on that section of the bypass.
In Virginia, the maximum speed limit for limited access highways like the bypass is generally 55 miles per hour, and a traffic and engineering study is required to lower the maximum speed limit.
Minutes from a July 3, 1967, Charlottesville City Council meeting refer to such a traffic study being completed. The council adopted an ordinance a month later, lowering the speed limit for a portion of the bypass.
The defendants argued the city must produce a copy of the traffic study to prove it was completed before the speed limit was changed.
“Due process requires the prosecution to prove every element necessary to establish the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt,” Hogshire wrote. “… In this case, due process requires the commonwealth to prove certain facts beyond a reasonable doubt such as the speed and location of the car. But due process does not require the commonwealth to prove that the ordinance was itself properly established.”
Virginia Code Section 42.6-878, which sets the requirements for lowering speed limits on limited access highways, includes a “rebuttable presumption.”
The rebuttable presumption requires the defendants to provide “clear evidence” that the speed limit was not established with the required traffic study.
“The city’s speed limit ordinance is not invalidated simply because a 45-year-old traffic survey cannot be produced,” Hogshire wrote.
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