Selma’s speed trap collected an estimated $168,000 a year, or more than $800 for every man, woman, and child who lived there. That's 4 times more than even the state of Texas, as all the state taxes added up produced only $215 per Texan.
Despite their growing notoriety, Selma’s officials showed no signs of halting their lucrative operation. They even concealed the full extent of their activity by violating several Texas statutes, and, as Texas Monthly Magazine found, appearing prepared to wage a protracted legal battle to shield their municipal records from public scrutiny.
Northbound travelers approach it over the crest of a long hill, at the bottom of which, under the 1603 highway bridge, cops had a speed trap
Created in 1964 under a wild west law that allowed for a fly by night hanging judge roadside courtroom type of town, Selma was carefully created to sidestep laws requiring oversight by the county and the state capital. Yes, seriously. It was founded back in 1847 as a stagecoach stop, and they picked up some legal loophole info along the century since
It was incorporated as a “general law” town under a statutory provision that permits as few as twenty people to map out some proposed town boundaries, allege that at least 200 people reside within them and petition county authorities to call an election. If the resulting vote favors incorporation, the new community is free to elect a mayor and aldermen, establish municipal services including a police department, and, if it wishes, set up a roadside courtroom to dispense its own brand of justice.
29 people signed the original petition to create Selma in 1964, 1/4 of them were all related, and the mayor was one of them.
The proposed city limits never extended more than a thousand feet from the highway, were 2 miles long, and may not have had many people to begin with, but no proof was required when getting incorporated, and 4 months later, Selma claimed to have over 600, which happened to be the minimum needed to qualify for title 28. A couple years later the census found only 207 people in city limits
The cops issued 500 tickets a month, they were for $35 for 65 in a 55. The common complaint about the Selma cops to the state attorney general was that the police add on an extra ten miles to the alleged speed, because the Selma prosecutor woudn't prosecute drivers for going less than ten miles over the limit.
Failing to send a check for the speeding ticket, and then failing to appear in court, resulted in a 100 or 200 dollar "failure to appear" fine added on. Out of staters didn't get the optional court visit to appeal, they could pay up, or post a bond. The court was only open one day a month, on a Tuesday, 1 pm. If they weren't at the 1pm roll call, they forfeited the fine, if they were there, they'd have to wait outside all day, in Texas heat, or give up and pay at the handy window outside the court next to the line. If they did wait, they normally lost their case, and paid up anyway.
Then they ticketed the governor's wife.
The result was House Bill 550 of the 1973 Legislature, which prohibited towns of less than 5000 population from using radar on Interstate highways.
No one testified against it except a Selma policeman who unearthed a 1935 decision of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals holding unconstitutional a legislative requirement that policemen in cities over 10,000 population wear uniforms and badges when making arrests. Selma interpreted this decision to mean that it was “beyond the authority of the legislature” to regulate small-town speed traps
Of course a list of other Texas towns includes Webster (pop. 3250), between Houston and Galveston in the NASA area. “A notorious one oyer the years,” according to a spokesman for the American Automobile Association. There are frequent complaints that Webster’s speeding arrests tend to escalate into DWI charges. The town is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for alleged harassment of an astronaut’s wife.
Think anything changed or improved in 40 years? Nope. People and cops still suck.
So does Selma, rapidly growing from 788 in the 2000 census to 10000 residents now, it's moved it's enforcement a little...
Not only is speed monitored along the access road (45 mph – do not increase speed until you are actually *ON* IH35!), but they will cite you for failing to yield (on the southbound access road), failure to come to complete stop (at intersection near Gillman Honda), crossing the double white line (northbound access road), etc. I was told by my policeman friend in NB that Selma PD are very heavy handed when it comes to vehicle searches
Similarly, Lumberton Texas has 75% of it's police officers on patrol to issue tickets on highways 69 and 96
Lumberton police issued 22 tickets per day last year, third-most in the region behind Beaumont and Port Arthur.
and Selma's speed trap is featured in the following
I'm just out of Austin bound for San Antone
With the radio blastin' and the bird dog on
There's a speed trap up ahead in Selma Town
But no local yokel gonna shut me down
Guitar Town is the debut album from singer-songwriter Steve Earle, released on March 5, 1986. It topped the Billboard country album charts, and the title song reached #7 on the country singles charts. Earle was also nominated for two 1987 Grammy Awards, Best Male Country Vocalist and Best Country Song, for the title track.