HOHENWALD, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Lewis County judge admits he’s dismissed a high number of Tennessee Highway Patrol tickets.
Judge Mike Hinson said he thinks the city of Hohenwald is over-patrolled. On Dec. 28, 2017 he even dismisses tickets at a traffic stop.
THP Sgt. Jeff Webb stopped a car for a seat-belt violation in downtown Hohenwald.
A few minutes into the 11 minute stop, Judge Hinson appears.
At times, the judge engages the driver and at other times he converses with the passenger.
At one point, the trooper and Hinson talk to the people in the car simultaneously.
“I was actually talking to both of the drivers, making sure I said OK is this a seat-belt, they said yeah, is this a seat-belt ticket and i said OK, stay here,” said Hinson of the traffic stop.
After the trooper cites the 26-year-old driver for a seat-belt violation, Judge Hinson can be seen on the dash cam video raising his right hand.
He then says he dismissed the violation for the woman who, according to the citation, has three prior seat-belt violations.
“I had court, went thru the process swore them both in. I asked them when is the last time you had a seat-belt ticket and they told me two or three years ago, I said OK, make sure you wear your seat belts, hand me your tickets and don’t bother coming to court. Probably wouldn’t do that again. And I don’t want to be disrespectful, but that is not the first time I’ve done that. I’ve actually had game and fish court in my driveway,” said Judge Hinson.
According to data supplied by the Lewis County Court Clerk, there were more than 2,000 THP citations written in 2017 and the judge dismissed approximately half of them.
“We haven’t had a fatality inside the city of Hohenwald in 30 years. but they come over here as the troopers say because it is like shooting fish in a barrel and we can get our numbers,” said Hinson.
Lt. Bill Miller with the THP says that he is troubled by what the judge is doing.
“That is very disturbing, we don’t have a quota at all. It is disturbing and it undermines what the THP does as far as our mission to promote and encourage self compliance for people to wear their seat-belts,” said Lt. Miller.
Miller also supplied THP data. in 2017, Lewis County had three deaths.
THP Troop D, all the western counties (Wayne, Lewis, Perry and Hickman Counties) suffered a 92% increase in fatalities (from 13 to 25) in the 2017 calendar year.
The unrestrained fatality rate for the western half of THP Lawrenceburg District (Wayne, Lewis, Perry and Hickman Counties) was 48%. The middle and eastern part of the district had a combined unrestrained fatality rate of 35%; therefore, Troop D had a 13% higher unrestrained fatality rate than the remainder of the district.
“Therefore, it goes without saying there is a compliance issue and work to be done in that area,” said Lt. Miller.
Judge Hinson gave News 2 his own numbers.
“Between 2008 and 2012 we averaged 800 tickets written in Lewis County. In the last 5 years, that jumped to over 1400 tickets. That’s a 600 percent increase in five years, and our fatality rate is the same, whether it’s 700 or 1400 tickets.
We are being over enforced. The troopers are coming into our city to get their numbers. We have 5 city officers on duty during the day. We are talking 5-6 square miles that’s patrolled,” said the judge.
Lt. Miller says that THP respects the court, but not always the decisions it makes.
“There were 3 people killed in Lewis county in 2017. If that was 3 other types of deaths, people would be on the front steps raising their fists in anger and protesting, wanting us to do more. If this is over enforcement, tell that to the three family members who died. Traffic drives the way we allow it to drive, if we allow it to be reckless and not be restrained, we are allowing them to run a risk of killing themselves. We respect the court and it’s decisions. Do we like them all? No we don’t. Are we going to stop doing what we are doing to save lives in Lewis County? No,” said the Lieutenant.
Judge Hinson told News 2 he has not dismissed serious violations like DUIs. He said that only once has he dismissed every THP citation in the courtroom in mass.
He said he did that because there were so many violators, it was a safety concern.