Family in dispute with Chesterfield Police over farm use vehicle

By Diane Walker - bio | email

Posted by Colby Rogers

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - A local farm family is accusing Chesterfield Police of wasting taxpayers' money on a traffic stop they say took too long and involved too many officers.

Mary and Carlton Keith say police pulled them over because their 2007 Toyota Sequoia SUV is an unregistered farm use vehicle.

Carlton says he couldn't convince the officer that the newer model vehicle was, in fact, a farm use vehicle and that he actually is a farmer. The Keiths own over 35 acres of farm land in the county where they raise sheep for wool.

The couple says the traffic stop took 2 hours, six police officers and two commonwealth's attorneys in the dispute over the tags on the SUV.

Unregistered farm vehicles in Virginia can display a sign that says "farm use." Farmers are not required to register their vehicles or pay registration fees.

The Keiths say the officer did not understand the law and that what should have been a simple stop turned into a two-hour conference call on the side of the road involving several officers.

"How many unsolved crimes are there in Chesterfield?" Mary Keith said, "and you have 2 hours and 9 minutes stopping a farm use vehicle?"

The Keiths say they were about five miles from home, which is well within the law for a farm use vehicle. They say they were carrying a bag of wool to market at a spinner's guild meeting at the county library.

"They may think it should be in a pickup truck, but you can't carry wool or grain in a pickup truck," Mary Keith said. "If it gets wet, you've had it."

Chesterfield Police acknowledge that the traffic stop took too long, but say it was because of the driver.

Carlton Keith was charged with failure to obtain a registration. Police say he prolonged the stop by refusing to sign the summons.

In response to the Keiths' claim that the police were wasting taxpayer money, the Chesterfield Police Dept. issued a statement saying that it does not enforce the law based on time or how many officers it uses.

The Police Dept. also says the officer was well within his rights to end the incident quickly and arrest Carlton Keith for failure to sign the summons. Instead, police say, the officer resolved the dispute with a simple traffic summons.

The case, which was set for traffic court Thursday, was continued.

The Keiths say they plan to fight the charge on principal, saying their civil rights were violated.

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