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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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  • Re:other problem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @02:29PM (#30049080) Homepage Journal

    We should call them DEMs.


  • link is Judge Borked (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HawkinsD ( 267367 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @02:32PM (#30049130)

    The link doesn't work. On the other hand, there's a very nice 404 page. It's funny, friendly, and attempts to be informative.

    Good error handling is something many of us don't always do well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @02:57PM (#30049498)

    Actually, it is not. LIDAR measures distance, not speed as RADAR does. If you point a LIDAR at a multifactaed object (like say a staionary car) and the operator moves enough to bounce the lazer from the grill to the windshield. A LIDAR will have seen the car 'move' because the distance the lazer went changed. This will not happen with a RADAR because there will be no change in red shift. LIDAR's should not be used in law enforcement.

  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <> on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @02:58PM (#30049518) Homepage

    I had always been shocked by the tails of being pulled over for speeding that I hear elsewhere. Compared to what the law says, not only am I a habitual speeder, the general flow of traffic is habitually above the speed limit here. Often by 5-10 in the city and 15 on the highway.

    Despite that, and that I often drive faster than "average", I have been pulled over all of 3 times for speeding in nearly 11 years of driving, and never for less than 20 mph over the limit. Still, never gotten an actual speeding ticket.

    It always boggled me until I heard that my state (MA) does exactly this. The mandate of the police is to keep the traffic moving and safe. NOT to arbitrarily enforce the law for any reason at all times. Since they don't get the ticket money, there is no reason to exceede that mandate.

    Of course, I wonder if its changed. I have noticed that ever since the economy started to nose dive, there have been more and more police, and more and more they are pulling people over, rather than napping by the side of the road. Also, I am not the only one to notice, several other drivers have made the same comment.

    My guess is that they feel the need to suddenly justify their usefulness to fend off budget cuts. Which probably means, that they SHOULD be some of the first ones on the chopping block. If they need to suddenly start enforcing pointless laws to justify their budgets well... can we really call that an improvement? I am in favor of laying off useless state employees if the alternative is to just make them do more pointless work.


  • by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @03:14PM (#30049744) Homepage Journal

    What's interesting is that the judges work for "Traffic Courts". If in Chicago that is anything like in New York City, then the two groups (cops and judges) are the same — both work for and report to the Executive Branch. The traffic judges aren't real judges — from the Judiciary branch. New York (and some other locales) get away with this, because driving is not a right, but a privilege, and thus the Executive can simply withdraw it — and need not bother convicting the accused in front of an independent judge (much less the jury of one's peers).

    Can anyone confirm, what the situation is in Chicago? Because, if the "Traffic Courts" there are also presided over by the Executive's employees, then it is interesting, because they and the cops are working for the same boss (the mayor)...

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @03:14PM (#30049746) Journal

    I just want to know when they're going to start throwing out cases based on fingerprint evidence. Fingerprinting has not been shown to be scientifically reliable in any court or scientific publication.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @03:19PM (#30049840)
    I don't know. This technology thing sounds pretty dangerous and crazy. Who knows what mistakes they're making with this pretty complex technology.

    As an aside, I have been nailed for speeding (73 MPH in a 60 MPH zone) because a car passing me was going that fast. I was probably speeding a little, but under 65 MPH (I was slowly passing a truck that was going just under the speed limit in a six lane highway).
  • by cellurl ( 906920 ) * <speedup&wikispeedia,org> on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @03:29PM (#30050046) Homepage Journal
    Hey Steve,

    Fight back by adding some speed limits at Wikispeedia []

    Its us fighting back.
  • by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @03:55PM (#30050416)

    Usually they don't have traffic cops investigating homicides. They aren't even enforcing the same code. Motor Vehicle Act vs. Criminal Code. They aren't even in the same BOOK. They don't use the same courts. Even a Dick Wolf law class should teach you *that* much.

    Meh, if this gig as an Electrical Engineer doesn't work out, I'll be an Electrician. That's the same thing, right? (Note that I'm not slagging Electricians; there's no way I can do their job in either a legal or competent manner.)

    Further, speeders in urban areas, construction zones, school zones, and residential neighbourhoods should lose their licences for life. There are approx 45k traffic fatalities every year in the US alone. People are generally terrible drivers and think they're good because they use their driving skills to evaluate their driving skills. Stopping speeders prevents accidents, saves money, and saves lives. In fact, there were ~17k murders in the US, so you're more than twice as likely to be killed by someone like you in a car compared to a murderer.

    On the Interstate, yeah, you can probably speed without much risk to anyone but yourself.

  • by kannibal_klown ( 531544 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @05:18PM (#30051596)

    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.


    The thing about speeding is, you usually KNOW you were speeding. Either while you were doing it or the instant you saw the police lights behind you.

    I agree that perhaps stating exactly how fast you thought you were going is probably not the way to go. But denying it or being a jerk will probably hurt you more than not.

    I'm not a social person (quite the opposite in fact) and yet my polite demeanor got me out of 2 tickets.

    I've been pulled over 3 times for speeding. One time a PBA card got me out of it.

    The other 2 times polite conversation and joking got me 1 warning and 1 "driving without a seatbelt" ticket instead. The seatbelt ticket was still a fine, but didn't count against my insurance.

    Both times, sheepishly admitting that "yeh, sorry I guess I let it get away from me" helped me. I guess they're used to jerks trying to deny or back-pedal so apologetic niceness is probably a breath of fresh air.

  • by svtdragon ( 917476 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @05:22PM (#30051636)
    I had a physics teacher in high school who tried to get out of a ticket for running a red light by using a whiteboard and some equations. She recorded the yellow light duration and measured it. She showed that given the weight of her van, or presumably some stopping distance numbers, had she been going the speed limit when the light turned yellow, there was a range of positions she could have been in at that instant for which she'd have had neither the distance necessary to stop nor the time necessary to get through the light. She won.
  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @05:29PM (#30051776) Homepage Journal

    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...

    Most license suspensions are for not obeying administrative rules, not due to dangerous conduct. 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? Would he have been previously banned from riding a horse? Interesting conundrums.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 11, 2009 @05:29AM (#30057818)

    This is the Anonymous Trooper again. One of these years I'll make an account.

    Responding to all of the above; ideally, I'd love to follow cars for a while and watch for the most dangerous. It's difficult in practice though. Most don't have unmarked squads so it's pretty difficult to follow unnoticed, and clearly most people are going to stop their jackassery with a squad right behind them. And just driving around all day sharking though traffic to find a bad driver isn't real practical. Besides the issue of getting talked to by a sergeant about all the miles and fuel charges I'd be racking up, the motoring public would probably wonder why all the squads were just driving around and not making stops. Basically, it's difficult to be in a good place to both see serious violations and safely catch up to and stop the violator. As a result, most stops are going to be for speed and various equipment violations because those can be observed from a stationary position. Hopefully, by showing the presence of law enforcement in a given area, other moving violations will be reduced too.

    If I see a car and obtain an 85 MPH reading with RADAR or LASER, and pull out behind the car, you can pretty much bet that they saw my squad and are going to be slowing down and driving like an angel. If not, then I may follow a bit anyway to see if the driver is distracted or possibly intoxicated (i.e., why didn't they see a fully marked squad with a reflective skunk stripe parked in the middle of the road?). Keep in mind that every stop doesn't result in a ticket. If someone's going 10 over because of [Reasonable Thing] and it's a warning, then for most purposes, it didn't really matter I stopped them. Very few good reasons for going 20-plus over so even if it =was= just short time period, I don't have any problem writing the ticket.

    Also, while LASER's are "instant in time" type of readings, I generally try to take several if possible. LTI brand models can take multiple readings while you hold down the trigger and Kustom brand models have a continuous reading (this is called a "tracking history"). Both are taking hundreds of samples per second and will not display a reading if they are not highly correlated (i.e. hitting the same object). Usually, I've got about a five to ten second period of observation where I see a speeding target, estimate the speed in my head, and then activate a detection device - so I do have =some= basis to watch behavior.

    Speaking directly about the article - LIDAR/LASER are very accurate, you as the driver have less to worry about regarding false readings than with RADAR (which as others pointed out, is shooting in a wide area potentially hitting other targets). In my own jurisdiction, we're actually waiting and hoping for someone to challenge a ticket so we can bring in the experts and get "judicial notice" of the devices like RADAR enjoys.

    With either of them though, you need a properly training and experienced officer who is truly concerned about not writing B.S. tickets. I had several speeding tickets when I was a teenager, one justified, one absolutely not. I still remember being furious about getting a ticket I didn't deserve and one of my professional goals is to never do that to someone else. I've had readings at 90-plus where I wasn't 100% sure which car in a group was giving me the reading (RADAR) and I didn't write those tickets. Generally I'll pull out and slow down the group and maybe stop one for another reason, but I don't write tickets unless I know I have the evidence.

    On a somewhat related topic to consider if you're ever stopped and don't think you were going as fast as the officer says - think about what happens when you see a squad. Typically it's foot off the gas and possibly onto the brakes. By the time this happens and you look at your speed, the officer probably already took a reading and is preparing to pull out into traffic. He might have had 80, but a short time later you saw 75. Both are correct, but in a differen

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