Victory in speeding ticket case could impact drivers statewide

SARANAC, Mich. — Anthony Owens won a four-year court battle that ended up, so far, in front of the Michigan Court of Appeals. The case has revealed why traffic signs and studies will be crucial in future cases like this.

Ed Sternisha, Owens' attorney said, "Many people who get speeding tickets may not actually be speeding. The speed limit may actually be wrong."

Owens was pulled over in 2015 on Parsonage Street in the Village of Saranac by Ionia County deputies.

"Police report said that he was speeding 43 miles an hour in a 25 (mph) zone. So, I looked. I looked, and I couldn't find a speed limit sign. There was no speed limit sign in his direction of travel," Sternisha explained.

The case bounced around from court to court. Sternisha said a Michigan State Police lieutenant testified as an expert on Owens' behalf. He said the lieutenant explained that there's a proper, legal way for speed limits to be set.

"He determined that the speed limit is 55 because there's no sign posted. He also determined had the village properly done the speed study as required by the 2006 law, the speed on that road would be 45," Sternisha said.

Owens was clocked at 43 miles per hour, "so, either way he was not speeding," Sternisha said.

The Grand Rapids attorney said the road was essentially treated as a speed trap. With neither side backing down, the case eventually made it to the Michigan Court of Appeals where the three-judge panel unanimously ruled in Owens' favor this week.

"He wanted this case to go all the way so that the average motorist who's pulled over for speeding has something ... because the average motorist is not going to fight a speeding ticket to the court of appeals," Sternisha said.

He added, "But now, the Court of Appeals with this opinion has given some meat to the average driver who's given a speeding ticket and may not actually be speeding."

The case could be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court.

FOX 17 reached out to the attorney for the Village of Saranac for comment but haven't heard back. Sternisha said the status of secondary violations resulting from the traffic stop is uncertain.

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10 comments

  • WRTolkas

    112th Avenue in Holland between Riley and James is like his stretch of road. My wife and I have been living on 112th Avenue for 19 years and we and our neighbors still don’t know the legal limit. I’m very happy he won.

  • steve

    Unless a speed limit sign is posted, in the old days the limit in residential areas was 25MPH and in rural areas 55MPH. When did that law change?

    • Kevin Rahe

      I think that still is the law, but in this case if the proper speed limit for the area turns out to be 45, then you can’t say it was an area that a reasonable person would find to be a a residential area with an implied 25MPH limit.

      • C

        You’re using words like ‘proper’, ‘reasonable’, and ‘implied’. All of them are subjective, not objective, and can’t be measured. If Saranac wants to post speed limit signs, great. Otherwise, they need to follow state laws themselves.

        • Kevin Rahe

          My use of the term “proper” comes from the article itself, where it is a reference to a law. “Implied” also refers to the law, which says that where no speed limit is posted, there is an implied limit of 55 or 25 depending on the type of area one is in. And in the case where a citizen must make a judgment call, I think that the decision a “reasonable” person would make is important. In fact, that’s what this particular case appears to be about. The officer who issued the ticket asserted that a 25MPH limit applies in the zone in question, while the defendant argued otherwise, and won.

  • Iamct01

    You also have to stay in the right lane unless turning left soon on roads like Byron Center, 68th St, 44th St, Burlingame, etc.

  • CharB

    The original ticket issued is a reflection of the character of the officer too. If he doesn’t know the legal speed limit, then he shouldn’t be issuing tickets. Pretty sly!

    • Michael

      Has nothing to do with the character of the officer. The prosecutor fought it all the way up to Michigan Court of Appeals believing the officer was correct as well.

      So they were wrong. Being wrong happens. Nobody is perfect. The officer’s character has nothing to do with this.

  • djmichaelangelo

    GOOD FOR HIM!!! The Village of Saranac sounds like a bunch of sleazebucket crooks, and the Ionia Police Dept was fraudualant and also complicit in this scheme. An unholy aliance of greed and deception. Thank goodness for people like Anthony Owens — the entire state owes you a debt of gratitutde sir! Like most folks, I’m a law-abiding citizen and I always try my best to follow the speed limits, but guess what Saranac: I can only do so when you POST THE FRIGGIN SIGNS on how many mph the speed limit actually is! Your scam is over!

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