It probably happens every day. Afternoon commuters, heading across the Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge that connects Virginia with North Carolina’s Outer Banks, being pulled over and cited for speeding. What made one driver’s traffic stop unique was that the officer had not seen the man speed but instead had received a phone call from another commuter who had witnessed it.
In Dare County, North Carolina, Gabriel Stitt was driving home from work across the bridge when he was pulled over by an officer of the Sheriff’s Department. Mr. Stitt made a video of the encounter where he is heard asking incredulously “I’m being given a ticket because someone said I was speeding?” The officer explained that the sheriff’s department had received a phone call that Stitt had been traveling more than 100 mph. The deputy was recorded in the video stating “It’ll be your word against hers when it comes to court.”
Dare County assistant DA Jeff Cruden says that the phone call came into the Sheriff’s Department from a former law enforcement officer. He maintains that while the circumstances surrounding the writing of the citation were unusual, the ticket was still written legally. He contends that because of the former officer’s training, she was qualified to make the call. Cruden also said that if the call had been received from a regular civilian that the ticket would not have been written.
A local attorney with no connection to the case was interviewed about the situation. He confirmed that the ticket was written legally albeit an unusual circumstance. He asserts that even if the former officer’s estimate was off by 20 mph, Mr. Stitt would still have been traveling well in excess of the 60 mph posted speed limit on the bridge.
Mr. Stitt was perhaps rightfully frustrated and angered by the incident. He questions the former officer’s qualifications and maintains that he was driving at or below the posted speed limit. He remained surprised that he would receive a citation solely on the word of another. He initially wanted the case dismissed accompanied with an apology from his accuser, but his attitude has since changed. At his first court appearance, he was offered a dismissal but opted to set a hearing instead. He will be fighting he is $213 ticket in front of a judge in early June. Assistant DA Cruden says that the former officer also plans to testify.
Many drivers who are ticketed lament that they got caught the “one time I ever did that.” It is as though the rest of their driving career has been flawless except for that single fatal error. While one might want to extend that type of largess to Mr. Stitt in his unusual situation, there is another fact that seems to indicate that his ticket may not have been the result of a singular and rare occurrence. In the interim between the first ticket and the present, Mr. Stitt was cited for traveling 85 mph in a 55 mph zone. By the way, this ticket was written in the usual way with a radar-wielding officer witnessing the whole thing.
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