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The Courts Transportation Technology

Chicago Court Throwing Out LIDAR Speeding Tickets 245

bridgeco writes "Chicago Traffic Court Judges have been throwing out speeding cases in which the driver's speed was measured with a LIDAR. Judges are asking for a special 'Frye Hearing' to determine the accuracy of these devices. Many motorists nabbed for speeding by a laser gun, instead of radar, are seeing their tickets thrown out at Chicago's traffic court because of a legal issue that the city's law department has been unable to overcome. Within the past year judges in Cook County Traffic Court in Chicago determined that speeds captured by lidar were not admissible because the devices had not been proven scientifically reliable in an Illinois court, said Jennifer Hoyle, spokeswoman for the law department, which prosecutes most speeding tickets in the city." (Here's some background on LIDAR from Wikipedia.)
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Chicago Court Throwing Out LIDAR Speeding Tickets

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  • Oh noes news at 11 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @02:34PM (#30049162)
    [$group] failed to go through [$procedure] to have [$new_technology] legally recognized by [$other_group]. As a result all results recorded by [$group] using [$new_technology] are considered legally suspect by [$other_group].
  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @02:45PM (#30049308) Homepage Journal
    "The point is, LIDAR is reliable, at least as much as RADAR is. This is just a legal snafu, they will throw out enough that there will be incredible pressure to figure out the legal problems, they will figure them out, and then LIDAR tickets will be enforced again. Never underestimate the power of a determined vendor that has been harmed or the importance of sunk costs in equipment for an agency with very limited funding. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along, please."

    Even more than that....NEVER underestimate the greed of the police force to reinstate their favorite method of revenue generation. That's really all this radar/lidar/stop light camera stuff is all about.

    If you were to take all the money generated, and not give it to the cops, but, say, pool it and refund it all the citizens that didn't get a ticket...I'm sure you'd see the enthusiasm by the cops for doing this subside drastically.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @02:50PM (#30049404)

    Well duh, would you prefer any tech is admissable against you in court?

  • by kirillian ( 1437647 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @03:29PM (#30050030)
    In the state where I grew up (Texas), the general philosophy is that, if you are going the speed of the general traffic, you are being a safe driver, and are, therefore, keeping the spirit of the law. I still remember my dad getting pulled over for going the speed limit because he was 15 mph UNDER the general traffic flow. Such a speed difference is hazardous to the rest of traffic. Period.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @03:32PM (#30050078)

    The only problem with that is that if everyone stops 'speeding' revenue will fall and they will lower the speed limits. Don't believe me, look into the way yellow light durations have been reduced to make red light cameras more profitable. When speed limits were reasonable your arguement to 'just don't speed' made sence. But since the double nickle, govt's have found an easy duck to shoot for money. And nannys like you back them up.

  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjc@carpanet.PERIODnet minus punct> on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @03:42PM (#30050234) Homepage

    Actually, I was curious about those and did some investigation. The site that originally sold them appears to be gone. Originally they were, indeed, only sold to police.

    Now you can get a "corrupt blue line" sticker nearly anywhere. Caffe Press sells them.

    Frankly, I think they are mostly on cars of people who just want to look special and are hoping that it gets them out of a ticket. Personally, I think the best way to avoid a ticket is to not confess, which most people do as soon as they are asked "Do you know how fast you were going". Oh, think your gonna be smart and lie and say it was only 3 or 4 MPH over? guess what, you just confessed moron. He might not have even had his gun ready and just saw how fast you were going and nabbed you. In fact, he doesn't even need to tell you, he can lie and say he got you just to trick you into confessing.

    I have heard claims from police that about 80% of people they convict confess in one way or another. Your best bet is to smile, be polite, and refuse to talk about anything related to what you were doing or why. Remember, nothing you say to a police officer can help you in court (ever!). Also, the fact that you were willing to discuss A but not B CAN be used against you (while refusing to discuss anything cannot)

    So if you have ever in your life done anything that you don't want to have to answer questions about, don't talk at all to start, about anything.


  • by osu-neko ( 2604 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @03:45PM (#30050274)
    Rivals working for the same boss who hate each other is terribly new and interesting...
  • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @03:55PM (#30050418) Homepage Journal

    I still remember my dad getting pulled over for going the speed limit because he was 15 mph UNDER the general traffic flow.

    That happened to me once in Mobile, Alabama. I pulled into the far left lane on I-10 to pass a car in the next-to-left lane. I got about halfway done passing them when a cop whizzed up behind me. Not wanting to get a speeding ticket, I slowed down to 55 MPH. Of course, the car to my right did the same thing, and we ended up side-by-side.

    Not really wanting to be stuck in the left lane, and not wanting to get a ticket, and since the guy next to me wasn't slowing down, I slowed down to drop in behind him and let the cop past. When I did, he turned on his lights and pulled me over. He proceeded to lecture me about how the far left lane was a passing lane, that when a car comes up behind me like he did, I needed to speed up and get out of the way, blah, blah, blah.

    Of course, I totally agree with him. That's precisely what I do under normal circumstances--avoid cruising in the left lane. People who do that drive me nuts. Of course, I guess the significance of the fact that he was a cop was completely lost on him, that the reason why I was engaging in this behavior was because I was afraid that he'd give me a speeding ticket.

    Truth is, I have very little respect for traffic cops for that kind of crap. Just last night, I was in gridlock at an interstate entrance in Atlanta, Georgia. No one could move anywhere because of how stupidly they have the entrance ramps and the lanes configured on the interstate. At the particular entrance ramp I was trying to get onto, people habitually engage in extremely frustrating and dangerous behavior, such as blocking intersections, pulling left into an intersection from the right lane to get around someone waiting for a light, etc.

    Meanwhile, there's an HOV entrance that dumps you right in the right place if you're trying to get on I-85 that is virtually unused. As a result, people trying to get on either of the two main arteries out of town, I-75 and I-85, have to cram onto a one-lane entrance ramp that is completely blocked because just after getting on, people are having to muscle their way to get in the right place since the interstates split about a mile after the ramp.

    So after sitting there for around 15 minutes and not moving, I took the HOV entrance ramp. There were two cops at the bottom giving people tickets. Fortunately, they either didn't see that I was alone, or they were busy with the people they were ticketing, because I got away with it. And you know what? In the same situation, I'd pick safety over the law any day. The fact is that in my opinion, those police officers should have been at the top of the entrance ramp directing traffic, not at the bottom creating more problems.

    Of course, directing traffic at the top of the entrance ramp would have only resulted in more safety, not the revenue generation of $150 HOV violation tickets. So guess which one they decided to do.

    The worst was one night when I saw a cop in the right lane watch a guy swerve across three lanes and onto an exit ramp because I guess he just noticed he was supposed to get off. I damn near slammed into him. The cop just kept going like nothing happened. I guess he had met his quota for the day.

    Anyway, yeah, to hell with 'em. It's too bad, because I normally have a lot of respect and admiration for people who put their lives on the line for us every day. But these guys are just a bunch of tax collectors with guns.

  • Re:Law and Science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @04:07PM (#30050590) Homepage

    Lawmakers and people don't know shit about science and technology. There is no absolute speed or stationary point.

    But there are relative speeds, which is why your vehicle's speed is always considered to be relative to the surface of the earth.

    Lawmakers may not know shit, but you know just enough to fail to notice the blindingly obvious.

  • by Mike1024 ( 184871 ) * on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @04:10PM (#30050632)

    If you can detect the doppler shift on a radio wave (which was created by a sinusoidally oscillating emitter) why couldn't you detect the same doppler shift on a laser signal, if said laser signal was sinusoidally oscillated?

  • by fulldecent ( 598482 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @04:13PM (#30050674) Homepage

    Some police systems have a positive feedback loop where ticket revenue is given back to the police department.

    Must have been a real rocket scientist that didn't see the problem with that setup.

  • by AshtangiMan ( 684031 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @04:25PM (#30050816)
    you are under the impression (thankfully mistaken) that the police are there to prevent crimes. It's a nice thought, but too slippery a slope.
  • by Fnord666 ( 889225 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @04:27PM (#30050856) Journal
    The nice thing about LIDAR is that unlike RADAR, I don't need a license to operate a jamming device. After all, it's just an extra "headlight".
  • by KC7JHO ( 919247 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @04:46PM (#30051092) Homepage
    In Oklahoma an officer is required to be able to determine the speed of an oncoming vehicle with in +-4 mph before graduation from basic police academy. You are correct we know about how fast you are going before we even hit the switch. The Radar usually picks up the largest vehicle in a pack unless it is a radar gun which can be pointed by hand. Never used a LIDAR so while I understand the theory behind it, I cannot comment on it's use or validity.
  • by dissy ( 172727 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @05:04PM (#30051392)

    because driving is not a right, but a privilege

    That's their claim. The trouble with their claim is that a large subset of people literally couldn't survive without it.

    While true, I think the point is an even larger subset of people literally won't survive if those whom can't drive properly are allowed to do so anyway...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @06:05PM (#30052314)

    If you were to take all the money generated, and not give it to the cops, but, say, pool it and refund it all the citizens that didn't get a ticket...I'm sure you'd see the enthusiasm by the cops for doing this subside drastically.

    I'm a state trooper. My agency gets none of the money for our enforcement.

    It goes to two pools for state and county budgets (unrelated to law enforcement). I suppose you could argue that since we get funded by the state, we're indirectly funding ourselves....but I guarantee our budget hasn't ever been increased because of increased revenue, it goes to whatever pet projects are popular, etc.

    We still get complaints that "it's all about the money". However, I write far more warnings than tickets. Other officers I work with have similar warning/ticket ratios, some more, some less obviously. We've never been pressured to write more tickets.

    Bottom line - At least in my work group/area; we don't give a flying [fill in your fav expletive] about the money. We write tickets when we believe it's justified. If you get one from me (for speeding or otherwise); you probably had it coming. Feel free to resume your rampant paranoia.

    Anonymous Trooper

    P.S. - that was my main point - continue reading for tangential, stream of consciousness type elucidation.

      I have an ongoing friendly debate with a non-cop friend of mine: his philosophy is basically "Let us do whatever the hell we want and don't show up unless we f--- up, to pick up the mess". Sounds great -- limited government and police authority, enforcement only for gross infractions and crashes; I suspect many here would be supportive of that.

    The objections I offer are two. One - see the South Park episode where they fire Officer Barbrady. Two - it's hard to put succinctly, but imagine the things that I and other cops/ EMS/ firefighters see when we come to crash scenes. Dead and dying children, people who look like they belong in a horror movie - I've seen half a torso hanging out a car window.

    Yes, somebody F---ed up.....and many times they run like hell so they don't have to face the consequences. These are the things I think about when I'm stopping people for speed, following too closely, inattentive driving, etc. I'd rather make more stops and issue more tickets and maybe change some behaviors than have to "clean up" those kinds of messes.

    It's not always drunks that kill people, sometimes it's one guy who has to rummage on the floor of his car without looking up for ten seconds at highway speed. Sometimes it's the herd mentality that doesn't see a problem continuing to go 70 in fog so thick you can't see a hundred feet in front of you. Sometimes people get it, sometimes others don't think I'm serious unless they have a $200 ticket in hand and then disregard and keep doing the same thing. Sometimes people thank me and shake my hand when they get a $200 ticket...and not in a make-nice-with-the-cop manner. It would be nice to be able to lower the fees based on attitude, but we have to be consistent...because lawyers exist and you need to show that you do not operate on bias when they ask "Officer, are you sure you didn't issue this ticket because my client is [male/female, ethnicity, color, creed, lifestyle]?

    Many seem to think an officer should know them (I never go this fast / drive like this) and get upset about being stopped or ticketed since (obviously) we should be after the =real= offenders. My last thought - keep in mind we don't know you so we have to act based on the behavior we saw, we don't know if it's typical, or really just a single screw-up.

    Be Safe

  • by dissy ( 172727 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @06:54PM (#30052968)

    (Quoting you out of order for simplicity. Please, no one take this as an exact quote of parent.)

    Most license suspensions are for not obeying administrative rules, not due to dangerous conduct.

    OK, I admit you got me there.

    License suspension over administration issues is indeed quite bullshit.

    Would he have been previously banned from riding a horse? Interesting conundrums.

    Actually back then no, if you used your horse and wounded or killed someone, they wouldn't need to ban you from riding horses, since you will either get jailed, shot, or ran out of town by a mob.

    Even at that, though, how do we expect Bob, who lives 10 miles from town, to eat if he has to walk, in the middle of Winter to get his food?

    Well, if Bob living 10 miles from down had his license suspended for reckless operation, then the answer is simple. I have no concern on how Bob will continue to live 10 miles from town in the winter without his car, other than the fact I am GLAD he doesn't have a car. He could freeze to death for all his victims would care.

    Now, for the other Bob that lives on the other side of the street from the first Bob, who had his license revoked because when he paid a parking ticket for $35 a week before it was due, the court added a $1 late fee anyways and never told him about it, thus when his license gets suspended for not paying the full amount, then he is screwed...
    Now _that_ guy I feel really bad for.

    The difference is one is consistently death in an SUV form factor, and the other is not.

    Only the former really should have driving rights revoked. Not the later at all.

    Plus I never understood that line of thinking.
    "Well, this person owes us money. I KNOW! Lets revoke his primary means for earning money! That should get us the money we want"

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford