Last month, a Georgia woman was sentenced to two days in jail as a result of her trial over a traffic ticket. According to ajc.com, a Georgian news website, Shari Hurston Tatum was released from jail Thursday, December 7, 2017, after serving one day of a two-day sentence- on her 20th wedding anniversary.
The judge presiding over the case was Judge Lindsay Jones of Decatur Municipal Court in Georgia. According to Judge Jones, Tatum insisted on a bench trial and waived her rights to an attorney and jury. During the November trial, Tatum was found guilty of the traffic violation and was additionally charged for misrepresenting material facts during the case, which is considered perjury. Judge Jones used video footage of the traffic violation to justify his conviction of perjury, as well as his conviction of guilty as charged for the traffic violation.
What initially seemed like a harmless traffic case rapidly turned into a serious matter. According to Simmrin Law Group, “Not all traffic violations are just a simple fine. Some can become criminal offenses, potentially carrying jail time and affecting your career.” Tatum never expected that a ticket for blocking an intersection would turn into jail time, but that’s exactly what happened to her.
Tatum was technically assigned the jail sentence for her perjury and not actually for her traffic violation. However, she and her husband Karl believe the judge was so strict in his ruling because Tatum chose to contest the original traffic violation. Without the checks and balances of a jury or the defense of a lawyer, Tatum had no choice but to accept the judge’s ruling.
News of the traffic charge that resulted in jail time quickly spread throughout the Atlanta area. Shortly after reports of the charge became public, Judge Jones submitted his resignation to Decatur Chief Municipal Judge Rhathelia Stroud, then later denied his resignation to local media. However, his resignation has been verified by Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss and was likely brought on by the publicity and attention from the Tatum ruling.
After the incident, Tatum hired an attorney, Vickie Sadler. Sadler said that sentencing individuals to jail time over a minor traffic violation is extremely rare, and went so far as to refer to it as “judicial abuse.” Merriss verified that the practice of using video footage and sending people to jail over minor traffic violations is not condoned, is not practiced by any other Decatur judges, and had only happened in Jones’ court. Sadler plans to request that the citation and related charges be wiped from Tatum’s record.