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Guess My Speed and Give Me a Ticket, In Ohio 636

Posted by timothy
from the well-it-sounded-really-fast dept.
quall writes "The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that police may estimate your car's speed and issue a ticket if they believe you were speeding. The hearing threw out a radar gun as evidence because the officer was not qualified to use it, but apparently his guess was good enough. If you make your way into Ohio, I suggest driving 5mph under the speed limit because this leaves little room to dispute your ticket in court. The only chance you have is if the issuing officer decides to skip your hearing." I wonder whether the court would also accept a driver's own GPS log as exculpatory evidence.
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Guess My Speed and Give Me a Ticket, In Ohio

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  • GPS (Score:5, Informative)

    by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmythe AT jwsmythe DOT com> on Thursday June 03, 2010 @04:45PM (#32451190) Homepage Journal

        It's doubtful that you could show an appropriate chain of evidence with the GPS. It's easily argued that you tampered with any such evidence.

        Ticketing for illegal speeds is pretty easy, most people confess to it.

        "Do you know why I pulled you over?"
        "I was speeding."
        "I saw you doing 80mph"
        "Yes sir, that's about right. I'm sorry."

        Voila, instant ticket for 80mph, and a confession to back it up.

        I did the opposite. You never *KNOW* why the officer stops you. You may have been speeding. He may be pulling you over for a burned out taillight, or your vehicle may match a description of one seen at a crime scene, or it may even match the description of a vehicle from a missing persons case. Don't guess.

  • by Antony T Curtis (89990) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @04:50PM (#32451260) Homepage Journal

    In the UK, it used to involve two police officers.

    One would drop their arm, raise a flag or some other indicator as a fast-looking vehicle passes...
    The other would time how long it takes from the time that the first officer indicates to the time that the vehicle passes him. Since the two of them are a known distance apart, say 100 yards or so, it would be trivial to calculate the speed.

    So if the driver was speeding or does something (braking like crazy to slow down) to raise reasonable suspicion, he'd be ticketed accordingly.

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @04:54PM (#32451302) Homepage Journal

    http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/ROD/docs/ [state.oh.us]

    Barberton v. Jenney, Slip Opinion No. 2010-Ohio-2420.

    "Santimarino also testified that in addition to his training and experience in visually estimating vehicle speed, he was trained and certified to use the Python brand Doppler radar unit that he was using on July 3, 2008. Santimarino testified on direct examination that after he visually estimated the speed of Jenney's vehicle, he observed that the radar unit indicated that Jenney's vehicle was traveling at 82 miles per hour. Santimarino could not produce a copy of his radar-training certification when defense counsel requested he do so on the day of trial."

    In order to be certified by OPOTA, Santimarino was required to show that he could visually estimate a vehicle's speed to within three to four miles per hour of the vehicle's actual speed, which he did

    While I don't like ruling there is a certification process and they follow it. When I was in the military and got pulled over by the locals are AG told us in no uncertain terms, do not question the accuracy or honesty of a police officer in from the of the magistrate. You will show up in your Sunday best, use ma'am and sir where appropriate, and be a perfect gentleman. You may plead for leniency or such but never suggest any lacking on the arresting officer.

  • Re:GPS (Score:4, Informative)

    by chadplusplus (1432889) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @04:59PM (#32451392)

    That's the point of establishing a evidentiary foundation. You testify under oath as to: 1) Here's the process by how I acquired it; and 2) the printout is a fair and accurate representation of the data contained in my GPS log. While it may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, that's the basic gist of it. Most judges I've appeared before were rather lax with evidentiary issues.

    If the cop wants to challenge the validity of it, he can certainly do that on cross examination - or even voir dire before the logs are admitted as evidence. I would be amazed though, if the cop knew enough law to be able to effectively challenge its admission.

    Unfortunately, and this goes back to the earlier post about videoing police during official stops, the old school judges seem to have a presumption in favor of police, so its an uphill battle regardless. Your closing argument would have to be along the lines of: a) I like cops; b) they're good for society; c) they would never intentionally lie and mistakes are rare, BUT THEY DO HAPPEN; etc...

    The above, while it is general legal information, does not constitute legal advice. No one should rely upon the above statements and no attorney-client relationship has been established thereby. If you have been charged with a crime, you should immediately consult a local attorney.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @05:02PM (#32451432) Homepage

    How do you think police issued tickets before radar guns were invented?

    Well if I didn't know any better, and thought there was no way to measure velocity prior to the invention of radar, I might do as you have invited me to do and imagine that they just guessed and that this was good enough.

    But since I do know better, I don't have to imagine. What they actually did was to time how long it took you to go between two points of known separation. Amazing, eh?

    Even as late as the 90s some officers preferred this method, and sometimes near speed traps in the city you could see the markings on the curb that they drew. When it was explained to me by an officer, I believe he said the preference stemmed from when radar guns were new and tickets based on radar guns were being challenged successfully, while the stopwatch measurement of a trained officer was more likely to be believed by the judge.

    In any event, "guess" was never the proper method.

  • by citylivin (1250770) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @05:21PM (#32451680)

    I recently fought a speeding ticket in BC. I went to court, was prepared with radar gun manuals and specs, what I thought was the regulations regarding calibration and many other defences.

    They were all struck down. Things that i learned:
    - going down a hill, moving with the flow of traffic, not enough posted signs, and many other "commonly accepted" defences were explicitly stated by the judge as not holding any water.
    - The police officer does NOT have to prove that the gun was calibrated in any way. His word that it was calibrated was "good enough" in the judges view.
    - Police are trained to make a visual inspection of the speed. They MUST make a guess at your speed in their head before firing off the laser or radar gun. Their experience in estimating speed is treated the same as laser evidence.
    - there is no "paper trail" on the gun, and they do not have to prove that the gun registered a certain number.
    - the judge makes or breaks your case. its pretty much the whim of the judge whether you will get off on a technicality or not.
    - bring some sort of previous case law that backs you up. I tried hard to find some relevant stuff, but obviously did not try hard enough.

    So I lost, but it was fun actually, going through the motions.

    Another thing i should say is that i was simply unlucky in the end. There were approximately 20 people there in the court fighting tickets, and 10 of them got to go scott free as their respective cops didnt even show up. No show = automatic win if you show up. So it is worth fighting every ticket and pleading not guilty, at least initally. Just dont expect to win if the cop shows up.

    Just my 0.2 cents as I just did this a few weeks ago in BC canada. ymmv.

  • Re:GPS (Score:5, Informative)

    by idontgno (624372) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @05:26PM (#32451742) Journal
    More than that: in another appeals case [lawyersusaonline.com] (Warning: PDF) in the State of Ohio (coincidence?), GPS evidence presented by the defendant was specifically and intentionally disregarded [lawyersusaonline.com] by the appellate judge. Apparently, GPS wasn't precise enough (average speed over an interval instead of instantaneous speed), and the appellant's use of supporting evidence downloaded from the Internet didn't help. (Protip: Wikipedia is not admissible in any court of law.)
  • by scotts13 (1371443) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @05:40PM (#32451906)
    I recall reading a book about how to beat speeding tickets. Assuming you'd disposed of the radar evidence (officer improperly trained, device not calibrated recently - works about half the time, if you know what to ask) you get the officer to demonstrate his prowess in estimating speed. Almost NO ONE is good at this. The example used was dropping a pencil from shoulder height. The usual estimates were between 40 and 60 MPH; in actuality, it's less than 20. Before radar, they typically had to pace you, time you on a marked bit of road, or use VASCAR (yes, I'm that old) Guessing wasn't considered evidence.
  • by amorpheous (733409) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @05:43PM (#32451960)
    I used to be a cop and I did a LOT of traffic stops. In training and certification to use a radar gun they train you to look at the vehicle whose speed you're going to measure and make an estimate of their speed before using the radar, then compare the results. This was a practice in Washington state but I would not be surprised if it is common everywhere. After a while you get very good at estimating speeds and find yourself generally guessing the correct speed +/- 1 MPH. When you write your subsequent traffic stop summary you include a sentence stating that your observed a vehicle that appeared to be speeding and your visual estimation followed by the radar measured speed. This gets the officer trained to look at what's being measured rather than just sitting there with the radar pointed back over his shoulder waiting for something fast to come through which then builds credible speed estimation and descrimination into his testimony and also gets past the problem of accidentally radaring the Cesna 150 that flew overhead at 80 mph while erroneously attaching that speed to grandma who was doing the speed limit. In short, anybody who does a lot of anything reasonably well gets good at it - cops do a lot of speed estimation and get good at it.
  • by stanjo74 (922718) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @05:43PM (#32451966)

    I once got a speeding ticket for 10mph above 45 limit. The officer had "estimated" my speed. When I challenged him in court, he presented a training certificate, certifying that he could estimate speed with some ridiculous accuracy (forgot the actual number, maybe within 3mph).

  • by bhtooefr (649901) <bhtooefr&bhtooefr,org> on Thursday June 03, 2010 @05:51PM (#32452054) Homepage Journal

    And Pennsylvania still requires that method. (And, actually, Ohio uses that method, too, for freeways - they just do it from a Cessna.)

  • by stuff and such (980278) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @06:06PM (#32452206) Homepage
    Oh you joke, but my hometown (Southern OH, just North of Piketon on US 23) got in a little trouble a couple of years ago for accepting donations to the tune of something like $1000 to make your ticket disappear. Wish I could find a better source...

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1894060/posts [freerepublic.com]
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @07:04PM (#32452808)

    Telling whether or not an object is getting closer to you is not very difficult.

    Neither is, with some training, estimating approximate speeds for a narrow class of objects (e.g., "cars") under very specific situations (e.g., "being observed from rest from the roadside"). Surprisingly enough, its fairly common for traffic police to be trained in that skill.

    Further, where its relevant to a case (whether or not its a speeding case) anyone can testify to a visual estimate of speed in court; of course, any party hurt by such testimony is free to try to get the trier of fact -- judge or jury depending on whether its a bench or jury trial -- to give less weight to that testimony based on the witness's lack of training and expertise, but the evidence is generally admissable.

  • Re:GPS (Score:2, Informative)

    by ImprovOmega (744717) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @07:22PM (#32453012)

    Instantaneous velocity = lim(distance/time) as time-->0

    Or, more succinctly, ds/dt - the derivative of distance with respect to time.

  • by domatic (1128127) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @10:01PM (#32454030)

    Another thing i should say is that i was simply unlucky in the end. There were approximately 20 people there in the court fighting tickets, and 10 of them got to go scott free as their respective cops didnt even show up. No show = automatic win if you show up. So it is worth fighting every ticket and pleading not guilty, at least initally. Just dont expect to win if the cop shows up.

    I'll add two things to that excellent point. Ask the officer, "Can I just plead guilty and pay the fine by mail?" They'll of course point out the instructions to do so are on the back of the ticket. But if the cop is indifferent about showing up at traffic court then you've pegged yourself as one he doesn't have to worry about.

    Also, make a note of the officer's appearance and the name on his tag. Oftentimes, a veteran cop will bully a rookie into showing up at traffic court for him. If you successfully point out that isn't the cop who pulled you then that is also an instant win.

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @11:41PM (#32454570) Journal

    It isn't a valid question, judges in Ohio get a salary that is paid no matter how many tickets are issued or not. They do not get commissions or anything of the sort. It may be that the fund the actual salary comes from is supplied or supplemented by citations, but it wouldn't effect their salary or benefits if no citations or twice as many was ever processed.

  • Re:Watch this! (Score:3, Informative)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Friday June 04, 2010 @12:47AM (#32454900) Homepage Journal

    You need to throw a large "I ANAL" tag on that post of your's, buddy.

    Laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. When I lived in SF, the court upheld the right for police to casually chat with people and take it further if they found the person suspicious and they failed to answer the questions satisfactorily. Might have been in regards to anti-vagrancy laws, but basically upheld the right of police to talk with people going about their business on the streets.

  • by JD770 (1227350) on Friday June 04, 2010 @07:13AM (#32456756)
    Back in the mid 80's, MP's at Ft Drum NY were sent through the state radar cert course. The first half of the course was classroom; the rest was spent estimating vehicle speeds while the instructors made their own estimate & held the radar gun. You could not be certified unless you could accurately guess vehicle speeds within one mph (multiple vehicle types in different busy speed zones; two tests while stationary and driving). Your turn in the hot-seat for the actual test was about two hours total, *constantly* estimating vehicle speeds within 1 mph. I can't recall how often you had to re-test to maintain your cert, but most MP's were only there for a year back then and no-one had to re-test while I was there.

    It was surprisingly easy to accurately guess vehicle speeds with just a little practice and training, no math involved. Like most any learned skill, the more you do it, the easier it gets. But learned skills are also perishable, so you have to use it or lose it. There is no "trick" to it. Just take in the scene and observe the vehicle of interest moving compared to landmarks, road markings, etc.

    Tickets were written based primarily upon our "visual speed estimate", which in turn was supported by radar. Actually, once certified, your visual speed estimate alone was sufficient to support the ticket. As I recall, there was no speeding fine until you were at least 7mph over and the PMO at Ft Drum set policy to warn until 10mph over, unless it was a hazard zone (school, construction, etc). So, FWIW...
  • Re:GPS (Score:3, Informative)

    by chadplusplus (1432889) on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:16AM (#32457284)
    No, its just that that particular post got rather specific.

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