7/14/2017Pennsylvania Court Overturns Fine For Dawdling Motorists
Pennsylvania Superior Court appellate ruling overturns the fine issued to elderly man driving 17 MPH below the limit on an interstate.
Pennsylvania's dawdling motorists and left-lane bandits now have less need to worry about ever being pulled over. A three-judge appellate panel on Tuesday sent a message to law enforcement by overturning the conviction of a 62-year-old man who was fined for driving 17 MPH below the speed limit on an lightly traveled interstate.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Michael Felsman saw the slow-moving 2001 Chevy as he was running a radar speed trap on Interstate 84 on May 11, 2016. Instead of simply writing Joseph J. Watley a ticket, the man was arrested and his car towed away.
At trial, Watley said he drives "cautiously" in the slow lane because he was in an accident three decades ago, but police never produced any evidence that Watley's admittedly slow driving affected anyone else on the road.
"I would say at that time in the afternoon during a week day it was like a moderate flow of traffic," Trooper Felsman testified. "It was sunny out. There were no adverse conditions at that time."
The trooper added that there was nobody in front of, or behind, Watley, but everyone else on the road was going 65 MPH by his measurements. The trial judge convicted Watley because state law specifies slow driving is only justified when "reduced speed is necessary for safe operation."
The appellate panel disagreed, citing the 1995 case Pennsylvania v. Robbins in which a man was driving 17 MPH under the speed limit, like Watley, but he had a trail of around 20 drivers behind him who honked and raised their fists in anger.
"In contrast, in the present case, Trooper Felsman's opinion testimony that Watley was impeding the flow of traffic was not based on any observation of Watley's vehicle blocking or backing up traffic, or causing an accident." Judge Paula Francisco Ott wrote for the appellate panel. "He testified regarding what hypothetically 'would' occur, not anything that had actually occurred.... there was no direct evidence or competent opinion testimony that Watley's speed affected any vehicles on the roadway. Therefore, we conclude Watley's conviction cannot stand."
A copy of the decision is available in a 140k PDF file at the source link below.