LaBre on Law: Challenge to speeding ticket takes unexpected turnsPublished 1:10pm Monday, July 1, 2013
My wife, Stacy, and I were eating dinner with another married couple on a double date. This was the first time I was meeting them.
We sat down and ordered some drinks and appetizers. We did introductions. What’s your name? What do you do? This type of conversation lasted until our drinks and appetizers appeared. Then the ladies began talking about children.
Mentally, I began to gnaw on a contested hearing I had coming up, while trying to appear attentive at the same time. As I was playing out the scenarios in my head, I suddenly heard my name.
“Rob,” Stacy said.
“Yes dear,” I said.
“You were just asked a question.”
Oops, caught with my pants below my knees. Stacy smiled at me and winked. She knows that the law is a harsh mistress.
“I’m sorry,” I said looking at the husband.
“No problem,” he said. “I was just saying that a buddy of mine got a speeding ticket in Michigan.”
“Oh, how fast were you clocked at?”
“I said it was my buddy.”
“Yeah, that’s right, how fast was your ‘buddy’ clocked at,” I said with as straight of face as I could muster.
“The ticket has me at 20 miles per hour over.”
“Ouch, that’s at least four points on your driving record, if you’re found responsible. That’ll certainly increase insurance costs. Did you get a lawyer?”
“No. I paid it off last week. I guess there’s not much I can do now.”
“Actually, you can still request to withdraw your admission, so long as you do it within 14 days of admitting responsibility. If the court grants your request, however, you’ll be scheduled foreither a formal or informal hearing, which you must attend if you want the citation dropped or reduced to a lower civil infraction.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that,” he said.
“That’s why there’s lawyers,” I said.
“What does it matter anyway?” he said. “It’s not like I can successfully challenge a speeding ticket. They’ve got that down to a science, don’t they?”
“Not really. Was the police officer sitting along the side of the road waiting for traffic as it passed by, or was he driving on the road with you?”
“He was coming from other direction — driving toward me in the other lane, right behind a semi.”
“Were you in the midst of other traffic or on the road by yourself?”
“There were some cars ahead of me and behind me.”
“What was the weather like outside, and what time of day was it?”
“It was sprinkling rain and about 7 p.m.”
“When you were pulled over, did you admit to the officer how fast you were going?”
“He never asked and I never said.”
I smirked. Silence is golden.
“That means they’ll have to rely on the radar reading and the police officer’s observations to make a case against you, which leaves plenty of room for argument in the scenario you just described.”
“A police officer is allowed to testify as to his observations concerning your speed. If he’s stationary when he clocks your speed, his testimony is more persuasive. But when he’s driving, his concentration is necessarily more distracted.
“In addition, radar readings are far from scientific fact. The law imposes certain foundational requirements before its reading is allowed into evidence.
“In your situation, there’s a possibility that the radar wasn’t properly calibrated, or that the weather may have affected the radar’s reading. It’s possible that the officer wasn’t properly trained to use the radar. And given that you had traffic both in front of you and behind you,there’s a possibility that the radar clocked someone else. In essence, yours is a case to play with.”
“Wow. I had no idea speeding tickets were so involved.”
“That’s why there’s lawyers.”
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