Ky. prosecutor presses to enforce traffic fines against Amish

Sunday, June 12, 2011

MAYFIELD, Ky. — A western Kentucky prosecutor says there should be no more delays in enforcing traffic fines against nine Amish men cited for not displaying slow-moving-vehicle symbols on their buggies.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals on June 3 denied a petition from the men. In the unanimous decision, Senior Judge Ann O’Malley Shake wrote that the men’s religious rights could not infringe on the rights and safety of the public. The case was sent back to a Graves County Court.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Scott Robbins told The Paducah Sun that he expected to ask at an Aug. 25 hearing that the citations be enforced. If the men continue to refuse payment, they could be jailed.

The group is being represented by American Civil Liberties Union attorney Bill Sharp of Louisville. He is considering his next move, which could be an appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

“We’re evaluating the options, and we’ll be discussing those with our clients to decide how they want to proceed,” Sharp said.

The men object to using the triangular symbol, saying it violates their religious beliefs. They are part of the Old Order Swartzentruber and say the orange emblem is too worldly and that the shape could be construed to represent the trinity. They sought to outline their buggies in reflective tape and use lanterns after dark.

Robbins said even if case is appealed again, he planned to ask at the next hearing for immediate payment of the $25 in fines and $138 in court costs per violation.

“We’re done continuing it,” he said. “I think it’s time we start enforcing it.”

Robbins said typically when someone doesn’t pay a court-ordered fine, that person is found in contempt, which is punishable by up to six months in jail.

The issue is far from over. There are 27 Amish men, including some of the nine, who are due in court Aug. 25 for failing to display the slow-moving vehicle emblem.

Robbins said the case is difficult because he likes the Amish men and respects their way of life, but he worries that the unmarked buggies pose a hazard to other vehicles and doesn’t want someone to get hurt or killed.

“Nobody really wants to see these guys go to jail, I don’t think,” he said. “We just want them to follow the law and get the emblem.”

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