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Defendant Who Requests Jury Trial for Misdemeanor Speeding Ticket Is Found Guilty

On Monday, Sept. 26, Doyle Price, 67, of Mansfield, insisted on his right to plead not guilty and his right to a jury trial, as well as his right to represent himself, all of which, of course, were granted by the court.
The Douglas County jury deliberated approximately 11 minutes before returning a guilty verdict for speeding 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.
The state called two witnesses, Sgt. Daniel Hinten, the radar instructor from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Troop G, Willow Springs, and Trooper Justin Piccinino.
Sgt. Hinten explained to the jury the training that an officer has to receive on radar equipment and he attempted to educate the jury about the scientific reliability of the second-generation radar equipment known as “Stalker 2.”
Next, the arresting officer, Tpr. Piccinino, testified that he was checking on traffic enforcement on the afternoon of Nov. 30, 2012, on Highway 5 north of Ava, when the vehicle that the defendant was operating was checked on the equipment as reading “70 mph in a 60 mph zone.”
The state concluded the case with a demonstration in the courthouse parking lot of the trooper’s patrol car and how the equipment is checked at the beginning of each work shift with two speed tuning forks (40 mph and 25 mph).
Price rested without calling any witnesses or testifying on his own behalf.
The defendant’s theory to the jury was that he was not speeding but that even if he were, he was not swerving in his lane or causing any traffic problems and should not have been stopped by the patrolman.
In addition to the speeding ticket, the defendant had also been written a ticket  for a seatbelt violation but the state had dismissed that ticket prior to trial. The jury recommended no imprisonment but a fine to be determined by the court. The state recommended the standard fine of $30.50 plus $58.50 court costs for a total amount of $89, and the court assessed that amount.
Questioned about the need for a jury trial on a lower level misdemeanor, Prosecutor Roger Wall admitted that it is almost always unnecessary. In order to accommodate a person who firmly believes he/she is not guilty of a traffic offense, Wall said he commonly amends tickets to non-point violations for anyone from any state without the necessity of a lawyer, so long as the offender has acted politely, possesses a decent driving record, no one was injured, the offender was not driving a commercial vehicle, and possesses a good-faith belief that they are innocent, and agrees to pay an increase in the standard fine. All fines are eventually routed to the public schools.
The reason for this, Wall says, is just plain practicality. Douglas County cannot afford to try a couple of speeding tickets every month and absorb the jury costs. Nor does the prosecuting attorney want to bother the public with excessive jury duty.
Wall said sitting as a juror in judgment of your neighbors is a tough job. However, he says, if the case is tried properly, it is usually educational as well.
Wall says that in this case, Price was offered the same amendments that everyone else is commonly offered but as was his right he refused the state’s offers. Wall said that other than apologize and dismiss, the state in these rare cases has no choice other than to prosecute through either a bench or jury trial.
Douglas County Associate Circuit Judge Elizabeth Bock presided over the trial, which was prosecuted by Wall and defended “pro se” without a lawyer.
Earlier this year, a young 18-year-old was offered a fine for shooting a Missouri Conservation Department decoy deer set up on private property at the request of the landowner complaining of road hunting and poaching in his area. That defendant also refused the state’s offer and demanded a jury trial. He was subsequently found guilty by a jury and sentenced to a fine and, in addition, two days in jail, by the jury.
In 2011 and 2012, individuals charged with commercial driver’s license/DWI and regular DWI requested jury trials. Each was found guilty by the jury on the first offense and received 90 days in jail.
When asked about the necessity  for all of these misdemeanor jury trials, Wall says that it’s just a sign of the times and it’s the way the legal system works.
“It’s very fair but not terrible efficient; but if everyone in the system is performing  their job in a proficient manner, a few guilty people may be acquitted but no innocent person will ever be convicted.”