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WV Supreme Court: man can’t pay traffic fine with all coins

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Photo courtesy of the West Virginia Supreme Court Photo courtesy of the West Virginia Supreme Court
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Officials in a Fayette County town did not violate federal code when they refused the payment of a $150 fine entirely in change, West Virginia Supreme Court justices recently affirmed.

Thomas Thornburgh filed his suit in Fayette County Circuit Court after an incident in 2009 when a Gauley Bridge police officer pulled him over and issued a $150 fine.  

Thornburgh went to city hall, wishing to pay the entire sum in change but a city employee told him the town's ordinance mandated people could only pay up to $5 in change.

In his state court suit, Thornburgh said he suffered humiliation, loss of privilege to drive on state roads, annoyance and inconvenience.

However, the lower court later decided, upon the town's motion, to dismiss the case, finding the town was protected by statutory and qualified immunity.

Thornburgh then appealed this decision to the state's highest court, saying the ordinance goes against federal code.

In the May 24 memorandum decision, justices said the town never argued coins were not a form of legal tender but the ordinance sought to prevent burdening employees with counting coins.

Justices Margaret Workman, Menis Ketchum and Allen Loughry concurred and Justices Brent Benjamin and Robin Davis dissented.

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