If you’re driving around Woodland Park, Colorado, you had better be on your best behavior. And you mind want to keep in mind that there doesn’t need to be a cop around for you to get a ticket.
That’s what Jake Turnbull found out when he was driving around the small town on the north face of Pikes Peak. He received a $120 traffic violation that was worth four points on his license for allegedly running a red light, per The Colorado Sun. The evidence? The word of another driver.
That’s because in Woodland Park, as in a few other towns, a “citizen-signed complaint” is all it takes to get a ticket. Any person who sees a traffic violation can call the police, provide details after the fact, and the police can write up the ticket. The only caveat is that the concerned citizen must sign the complaint and agree to appear in court to testify if necessary.
This was a surprise to Turnbull, who works as an operating room assistant in a children’s hospital and lives in Colorado Springs. There, video evidence can be submitted to the police, but they need more than just a pinky promise.
Turnbull was driving his newly purchased Suzuki Sidekick to the DMV in order to pick up his plates when he went through the intersection of Highway 67 and Evergreen Heights Drive. He says he was past the point of no return and continued through a yellow. Another driver, a former Teller County sheriff’s deputy named William Sipes, says he went through a red light. They both agree that Sipes honked at Turnbull and Sipes says Turnbull flipped him off twice.
Sipes followed the Sidekick, writing down all of its information, and calling the police about the alleged traffic violation. The police showed up and gave Turnbull the ticket as he was leaving the DMV.
“I was like, ‘I’ve never heard of this. This doesn’t sound right,’” a shocked Turnbull told the Colorado Sun. “It’s like a dystopian town where you are being watched 24/7.”
According to the Woodland Park police, they get about 30 similar calls a month and pride themselves on investigating each one. Most people lose interest once they understand that they have to sign their name and possibly appear in court. That makes complete citizen-signed complaints pretty rare. The police department said only about 5 per year are followed through.
Turnbull is having none of it, though, and says he plans to fight his ticket in court. In fact, he says that even “if this ticket was $1, I’d go to court.”