Traffic ticket lands in Supreme Court
What started as a simple traffic ticket issued near Carbondale will end up as a case before the Colorado Supreme Court.
It will be “a very unusual challenge,” Deputy District Attorney Rich Orman said about the case.
Orman said Monday that he’s “very much looking forward to arguing the case,” which will be his first appearance before the high court. He also said such an appearance is “very rare. The Supreme Court almost never agrees to hear appeals from county court cases.”
At issue, according to 9th Judicial District Attorney Mac Myers, is “protection of victims’ rights.”
The Supreme Court announced last week that it would hear an appeal filed by Myers in a case that began with what he called “a relatively simple traffic accident” more than a year ago.
The accident was a 5-car pileup on Highway 82, at the intersection with County Road 154. A person turning onto the highway pulled out far enough to block the traffic lane. One car stopped. A third car, driven by the defendant in the case, rear-ended the stopped car, pushing it into the car blocking the road.
That car was pushed into the other traffic lanes, making it necessary for a fourth car to swerve to avoid hitting the first car, and instead, hit car number five.
The man driving the car that rear-ended the stopped car was convicted of careless driving.
According to Myers, “We filed a a motion for the county court to award restitution to two victims in the accident so that their insurance deductibles would be paid.”
But the trial court that handled the original case ruled that the person who originally blocked the traffic lane and started the chain reaction was 85 percent at fault, Orman said. The court ordered that the defendant pay only 15 percent of the deductibles.
The first driver was only given a traffic infraction instead of a traffic misdemeanor ticket, Orman said. Restitution cannot be collected from infractions.
After the county court’s decision was upheld by an appellate court, Myers filed a request that the Supreme Court hear an appeal.
“Basically,” he said, “we felt that when a person commits a crime and damages someone, they should have to pay full restitution. Period.”
Orman’s appearance before the high court has not been finalized. Myers has until the end of February to file a brief in the case. After that, he will request the court hear an oral argument. If the justices agree, Orman will have his day in court.
Even if the judges rule in the district attorney’s favor, it doesn’t mean the victims would receive any more restitution, Orman said. That case is done, he said.
“This is just a legal issue,” Orman said. “We’re trying to set a precedent here that the county court cannot reduce restitution because of a third party.”
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