OOIDA member wins legal round; $22 million in fines at stake

| 12/10/2007

Gary Ring’s legal battle against the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development continues to ricochet through the court system.

Ring, an OOIDA member from Virginia, IL, has spent six years challenging the constitutionality of Louisiana’s on-the-spot fines at weigh stations and the administrative review of state-issued traffic citations.

On Nov. 30, Judge Curtis Calloway of the Parish of East Baton Rouge reaffirmed the class-action status of Ring’s lawsuit. The case could go to a jury by late summer 2008, according to Madro Bandaries, Ring’s attorney, and could include as many as 15,000 class members.

“I’d like to see Gary Ring win before I die,” Bandaries joked on Monday, Dec. 10.

In March 2000, Ring was backed up on the shoulder of Interstate 10 near Lake Charles with other trucks waiting to go through a scale. When the “bypass scales” light came on, he left the shoulder to re-enter traffic but was pulled over by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy.

The officer took Ring to a Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development office and had a weights and scales officer sitting in an office issue him a citation for passing the scale.

Ring was told that because he was not a Louisiana resident, he could either surrender his load – a shipment of drill parts – or pay a $2,000 fine on the spot.

“If I didn’t pay the two thousand dollars on the spot, they were going to tow my truck and take me to jail,” Ring told Land Line in early 2007. “I said ‘You can take me to jail, but I can’t surrender my truck.’ ”

Louisiana has twice changed its law, and now doesn’t require cash payments on the side of the road, Bandaries said. The legal challenge remains with the state’s department of transportation’s practice of not allowing due process for someone to challenge a traffic citation.

Louisiana’s DOTD racked up $22 million in fines from 2001 through 2003, during which time those cited were told they had 60 days to file a civil lawsuit to question the citation.

“If the police department just pulls you over for the hell of it and the backseat is full of cocaine –if they can’t articulate a reason for pulling you over, guess what – all that evidence is gone,” Bandaries said. “Now, if I am charging you X dollars pursuant to a system of law that is unconstitutional on its face, then I have no authority to do so.”

Bandaries believes as many as 15,000 truckers and motorists were cited under the now defunct Louisiana State Act 32:388.

Now, drivers are given a specific day to appear in court to dispute traffic citations from the state DOTD.

“The law was changed right after I filed suit. Now you’re going to have the opportunity to say, ‘Hey sir, you’re wrong.’ ”

Bandaries said truckers should continue reading Land Line Magazine and checking www.landlinemag.com for updates on the case if they believe they are included in the class action.

“The word needs to get out to truckers that (the lawsuit) is still out there,” Bandaries said.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer