Turbeville, South Carolina is a small little town in Clarendon County. It is one of those towns on U.S. 378 you pass through on the way to greater Myrtle Beach area. However, Turveville has a distinct reputation: it's a giant speed trap. So much so, the city is defending a class action lawsuit.
In 2003, Turbeville passed a town safety ordinance, allowing it to write traffic tickets with higher fines than normal South Carolina traffic tickets. The town then keeps the money from the citations. Financial statements included in the lawsuit document the town has recovered approximately $1 million per year in traffic fines over the last 13 years. Turbeville Police average more citations than cities roughly 20 times the size of the town. From December 2014 to November 2015, Turbeville Police wrote approximately 203 tickets a month. During peak beach season (May - August), the average jumped to 245 per month. Turbeville's population is 804 accordingly to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The lawsuit seeks to force Turbeville to (a) abandon the practice, and (b) repay millions of dollars in fines collected since 2003. This unfortunately isn't a novel idea in rural South Carolina. Hardeeville, Myrtle Beach, McBee, South Congaree and West Columbia have all been targeted for similar practices. Most of these practices were abandoned as they were brought to light.
One primary issue with these practices is that it's clearly a revenue scheme. These town ordinance tickets are not reported to state DMVs or insurance companies. This actually encourages motorists to simply pay off the citations, thereby raising revenue. The tickets, which impose much higher fines than normal state citations, are simply designed to raise money for the local municipality. An obvious indicator of such is the rather large volume of citations issued by these very small towns.
Another issue noted in the lawsuit concerns challenges to the town ordinance citations. If a motorist challenges a citation, the case goes before Turbeville's solitary town magistrate, hired by the town council. The suit alleges the Magistrate then just either converts the ticket to a state citation, lowering the possibility that the town ordinance will be challenged. Either the ticket gets dismissed or amended to a valid state traffic ticket - either way it avoids judicial review according to the lawsuit.
It will be interesting to see the result of this lawsuit. At first glance, this ordinance simply doesn't pass the "smell test". It just simply seems to be another completely improper revenue scheme comprised by corrupt local politicians and law enforcement. Unless the Defendants can really produce some strong evidence to the contrary, one would think this scheme must go and perhaps so would some individuals responsible. However, I see no way the Plaintiffs are going to recover millions of damages from a local town; I suspect that would be a paper judgment.