Mississippi bills would expand speed radar use

January 22, 2019

Keith Goble


Another round of legislation is underway at the Mississippi Legislature to permit sheriffs to use speed radar.

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 Office. 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.

Multiple bills have been introduced in the opening days of the regular session to authorize the board of supervisors of any county to permit sheriffs to use speed radar.

Efforts to expand speed 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 being renewed at the statehouse.

One bill to permit sheriffs’ use of speed radar attempts to ease concern about misuse of the equipment to boost revenue.

Sponsored by Rep. Price Wallace, R-Mendenhall, HB213 specifies how ticket revenue would be distributed.

Half of all fines collected by a county would be deposited into a special fund to be appropriated by the Legislature for maintenance, reconstruction and/or repair of highways and bridges. The remaining half of fine revenue would be used for road construction in the county where the violation occurred.

Separate efforts, HB109 and HB699, do not include the revenue allocation requirements.

The bills are in committee.