Mississippi bills would expand speed radar use

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The battle at the Mississippi Legislature to decide who gets to use speed radar to write tickets is again being fought.

State law now restricts the use of speed radar detection equipment to the Mississippi Highway Patrol, city police departments and the Lowndes County sheriff’s department. Cities with populations of fewer than 2,000 are prohibited from using radar on their public streets while populations of more than 15,000 can use radar on federal highways within their boundaries.

Efforts to expand radar use in the state to include county roads have struggled for decades as opponents say the enforcement tool could be used to set up speed traps and rake in revenue from tickets.

They point out that extending the use of speed radar to sheriffs’ deputies is unnecessary because the state already allows the Highway Patrol to leave state roads and assist local agencies.

That reasoning is not good enough for advocates of expanding the use of radar. They refer to state statutes that require counties to post speed limits but also prohibit counties from enforcing the speed limits.

As a result, the fight to expand the use of radar to sheriff’s deputies is again underway at the statehouse.

Rep. Tom Weathersby, R-Florence, is the sponsor of one bill to allow sheriffs in all of the state’s 82 counties to use radar on certain roads. HB535 would authorize sheriffs to use the devices only on public streets, roads and highways of the county lying outside the limits of municipalities.

A similar bill from Rep. Bill Kinkade, R-Byhalia, would authorize the board of supervisors of any county to permit sheriffs to use speed radar.

Rep. Brent Powell, R-Brandon, is taking a slightly different approach. HB848 would allow sheriffs to use radar enforcement based on the county’s population. More specifically, radar would be limited to sheriffs in counties with at least 95,200 people.

One more bill from Rep. William Shirley, R-Quitman, focuses on truck enforcement. HB551 would authorize law enforcement with the Mississippi Department of Transportation to use speed radar when enforcing the speed limit on commercial vehicles.

The bills are in committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Mississippi, click here.

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