Judge Ignores Constable’s Attempted Traffic Stop

Posted: November 7, 2009 at 3:34 a.m.

— A local circuit judge didn't pull his vehicle over recently after a plain-clothes constable attempted to make a traffic.

On Oct. 26, Judge Jay Finch was driving his vehicle, which had expired tags, when Craig Milligan, constable of Township 4, activated his vehicle's blue lights to stop Finch.

Finch didn't stop and instead drove to his home. Milligan wasn't wearing a uniform as required by state law in order for constable to make traffic stops.

The incident occurred at 5:45 p.m. as Finch was driving from Lowell to Cave Springs on Arkansas 264.

Finch said he noticed an older-model pickup tailgating him. Twice the vehicle approached closely, and the only thing he could see is the front hood of the vehicle, Finch said.

The vehicle was unmarked and Finch said he did not recognize the driver.

After turning south off Arkansas 264, Finch said he saw the blue lights activate on the other vehicle's dash, but he continued driving until reached his house. Finch said he was concerned for his safety after seeing the vehicle's blue lights.

Finch and Milligan were interviewed as part of Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Van Stone's review of the incident.

Milligan didn't return telephone calls seeking comment, but Milligan and Finch disagree on when Milligan's blue lights were activated, according to Stone's review.

Milligan claimed he activated his lights while on Arkansas 264. According to Milligan's interview, he also claims he announced over his vehicle loud speaker he was a constable, but Finch didn't pull over.

Finch said he considered going to the Cave Springs Police Department, but instead continued home. At his home, Finch saw Milligan and noticed him talking into a hand-held radio.

Milligan asked him, "Who are you," Finch said. Finch identified himself and said he was a circuit judge. Finch said Milligan asked "Why didn't you stop?"

Finch replied, "Why don't you get off my property?"

Milligan claims Finch told him he wasn't going to stop for someone driving a pickup and not in uniform, according to Milligan's interview with Stone.

Finch said Milligan left and returned later with Cave Springs police officer Jesse Laird.

According to Finch, Milligan said he was pulling Finch over to inform him of the expired tag. Finch then checked the tags, saw they were expired and told Milligan and Laird he wouldn't drive the vehicle until he renewed the tags, which he did the next day. Finch was issued a citation for having expired tags. Finch agreed to pay the $80 in court costs and a $50 fine.

Finch said he told Milligan his vehicle was unmarked, but Milligan showed him small constable emblems on the doors of his vehicle.

Finch maintains his actions were appropriate due to his concern for his safety and since he didn't know Milligan was a constable. Finch only second guesses the decision he made to drive to his home instead of going to the Cave Springs Police Department.

"It may not be the brightest decision I've ever made," Finch said.

Stone reviewed the incident and decided against filing a fleeing charge against Finch.

"We would not want people to stop for an unmarked pickup truck with blue lights rather than going to a place a safety," Stone said.

Stone said police departments across the country recommend people call 911 or go to a well-lit or well-trafficked area if they are concerned about someone not being an law-enforcement official.

"Basically, use your common sense," Stone said.

Stone said Milligan has a constable's uniform, but was off work and was returning home at the time of the encounter with Finch.

A.L. Hollingsworth, president of the Arkansas Constable Association, said he hadn't talked with Milligan about the incident.

"I don't know his side, and until I do I don't want to make a comment about it," Hollingsworth said.

Hollingsworth said constables are required to wear uniforms, but there may be emergency situations when a constable doesn't have his uniform.

"It's all a judgment call as far as I'm concerned," Hollingsworth said. "I really want to talk to (Milligan)."