CARMEL, Ind. (April 19, 2016) – The Indiana Supreme Court recently ruled to not hear the City of Carmel's appeal in a case that determined the city issued an illegal traffic ticket.
Carmel Police cited Jason Maraman two years ago for speeding in Carmel under the city ordinance 8-2. Maraman did his research and realized the city did not have the right to charge him under a local ordinance when there is already state statute for the same violation.
"This has the effect of (undermining) the state's authority and diverting funds from the state general fund to Carmel," Maraman said.
An Indiana appellate court ruled in favor of Maraman late last year. By not hearing the case, the supreme court essentially upheld that decision.
An Indianapolis attorney has another case in the courts against Carmel for the same city ordinance.
Attorney Ed Bielski has filed a class-action lawsuit against Carmel claiming the city filed more than 11,000 illegal tickets over the last three years.
“What (Carmel) tried to do is pretend all state laws were ordinances so they could keep the money," Bielski said. "Everything goes back to money.”
While Bielski's and Maraman's cases are completely separate, Bielski said this ruling is encouraging for his class-action lawsuit.
“This is a huge win," Bielski said. “This is the state of Indiana telling one of its largest city’s that your entire approach that you have taken for 14 plus years is illegal."
Bielski said this ruling also goes a long way toward achieving the main goals of his lawsuit.
“Get an appropriate recovery based on civil rights violations, clear peoples’ records of invalid and inappropriate notations and make sure Carmel stops violating people’s city rights and pursuing an illegal ordinance," he said.
The City of Carmel and other government agencies have filed motions to dismiss Bielski's lawsuit. Bielski said this is just the beginning of a lengthy legal process.
Carmel Corporate Attorney Douglas Haney gave this statement regarding the Indiana Supreme Courts recent decision to not hear the Carmel's appeal in the Maraman case.
The City of Carmel was recently notified that the Indiana Supreme Court, by a 3 to 2 vote, declined to accept transfer of the Indiana Court of Appeal’s decision in Maraman v. City of Carmel. This is a disappointment to the City, as well as to the numerous other Indiana municipalities that have long been using their Home Rule powers to prosecute local traffic offenses.
Fortunately, the long-term effects of this decision will be minimal. The decision did not dispute the fact that the trial court found Mr. Maraman committed the traffic offense with which he was charged. Instead, it merely held that he was charged under the wrong City Code section. This is more of an issue of form over substance in that the court found that municipalities needed to create their own ordinances specific to these offenses instead of using a local ordinance that referenced the state code.
The City will fully comply with this new procedural distinction by repealing its quarter century old general traffic law, and by citing future traffic offenders under an appropriate specific local traffic law.