Q. Judge Kane, I have always heard that small towns in West Virginia are “speed traps.” Is there any truth to that? — Donna
A. That’s an interesting question, Donna, and I have heard the same accusation over the years. The truth is a “Speed Trap Town” is a misconception. The towns in West Virginia do not directly assign speed limits. The speed limits are determined by the state through laws and by road conditions. You may notice that in city limits, the speed is generally 25 mph. Speed limits are determined by intersections, businesses, pedestrian traffic and blind spots. The city police simply enforce these speed limits regulated by the state and give the impression of “speed traps.”
Q. Judge Kane, when I was in municipal court last week for a speeding ticket, I noticed a lot of people in the court room. This was embarrassing. Is there anyway to have a private court session? –- Treavor
A. Treavor, if you decided to go to court, as opposed to paying off the ticket, a public and open court should be expected. The Bill of Rights guarantees a “speedy and public” trial for those accused of crimes. Therefore, the open court is one of your protections. There are only few exceptions to this rule (juvenile cases, for example). If you notice, major criminal trials are publicized on television. By keeping criminal courts public, the government is more transparent and since crimes are considered acts against the state, the public in general has a vested interest. I ask that you consider this as the government honoring your rights and not to embarrass you.
Dr. Michael J. Kane is a municipal court judge in Gilbert and criminal justice professor at West Virginia State University. If you have questions relating to the criminal justice system, please submit these to the firstname.lastname@example.org.