Judge dismisses hundreds of tickets issued by speeding cop

Sorrento Police Officer James Bell
Sorrento Police Officer James Bell

SORRENTO, LA (WAFB) - According to District Attorney Ricky Babin, any citations issued by Sorrento Police Officer James Bell before September 10, 2013 have been dismissed.

Officer James Bell issued more than 300 traffic citations between July 1 and September 3, 2013. The dismissal affects all traffic citations since December 2012. The exact number is not known at this time.

Earlier this month, Officer Bell was accused of speeding more than 700 times within a 64-day period.

According to District Attorney Ricky Babin, Officer Bell admitted in traffic court in September that he did not calibrate his radar gun. "Officer Bell testified in open court that he did not calibrate a device, the radar gun used for speed detection, so we dismissed the speeding tickets because of that," said Babin to WAFB Reporter Cheryl Mercedes during a phone interview. Every misdemeanor offense and traffic citation issued before September 10, 2013.

"The Assistant District Attorney was asking him about whether he calibrated his machine, which is standard operating procedure for an officer, and he said in open court that he had not, did not. So it brought to light to us the possibility the machine was inaccurate, so we bare the burden of proof so we couldn't prove it," said District Attorney Babin.

On October 15, 2013, Officer Bell was in traffic court again. Because of what he said in September traffic court, DA Babin authorized the dismissal of every traffic citation issued since September 10, 2013.

DA Babin also authorized the dismissal of every traffic citation issued by Officer Bell before September 10, 2013. That goes back to December.

I have gotten some calls from people about tickets that they have from this particular officer and what we're telling everybody is that it's case by case. If somebody has already (sic) pled guilty and they admitted they were speeding then the case is over. But if this particular officer has a pending citation, check with the court or us, check the ticket because there might be more than one thing on that ticket. There might be a seat belt violation and speeding ticket. So don't just assume the case is over," said D.A. Babin.

"Paying a ticket is basically an admission of guilt in lieu of prosecution. So if someone's done that already, if you've paid, that means you admit you were speeding. We're not giving refunds," Babin said.

D.A. Babin says there is no criminal investigation of Officer Bell.

Of you received a citation from Officer Bell, you are asked to contact the District Attorney's Office at 225-473-6777.

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