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Defending Your Ticket in Court

This section is designed to help you defend your speeding ticket in court.

There are five methods by which police measure the speed of a vehicle. They are:

  1. RADAR
  2. By Pace
  3. By Air
  4. Lidar (laser)
  5. Visual Estimation

One of the first questions you want to ask the police officer at time of trial is “how did you measure the speed of my vehicle?”. The officer should reply with one of the five listed above.

  1. RADAR
  2. RADAR stands for Radio Detection And Ranging. It is the most widely used method among law enforcement to measure the speed of a moving vehicle. It is used throughout the United States.

    RADAR was first used in WWII. It was used to measure distances from one point to another. With that information the military could strike with precision the target they were aiming for. In the 1970’s if was converted to police use citing motorist for speeding.

    The RADAR system is a reliable way of measuring speed, but it is not perfect. Radar works by reflective capability. A tractor-trailer has five times the reflective capability as a standard motor vehicle. There are several factors that influence RADAR. If the operator is not familiar with these factors a false reading could be obtained. These factors are:

  3. Speed Measured by Pace
  4. This is one of the most inaccurate ways of measuring the speed of a moving vehicle. Let me explain. Measuring the speed of a moving vehicle (you) by pace means that a police vehicle follows behind your vehicle for a certain period of time, normally 1 minute or better or 1-mile or better. This occurs more during the night hours due to the fact you cannot see the vehicle behind you. If the distance between his vehicle and your vehicle remain the same, he measures the speed of your vehicle by his speedometer. It’s almost impossible to be exactly accurate using this method to measure speed. It may be an error of 1 to 6 mph. This could be critical if you were cited for reckless driving by speed.

    The officer must produce at time of trial a recent certified result of his police vehicle’s speedometer calibration. In some cases the officer will not be able to produce this documentation.

  5. Speed Measured by Air
  6. This method is only used in very few states and mostly occurs during times of holidays when there is a lot of vehicles on the roadway. It also may occur once a month due to the cost involved. It involves a fixed wing aircraft flying over a roadway (almost always interstates) measuring the speed of a vehicle from the air and radioing it to a ground unit. The aircraft will monitor and measure the speed of your vehicle from one point on the roadway to another; use a speed measurement table, calculate your speed and radio it to the ground unit that is near by. The aircraft will give the location of your vehicle, color and description to the ground unit. At this point you will be stopped and notified with a ticket that you were speeding. Due to the recent cut backs nationwide, this system is becoming less used due to the cost of the aircraft and manpower.

  7. LIDAR (Laser)
  8. LIDAR is the latest technology for measuring the speed of a vehicle. LIDAR is only used in a selective number of states due to the cost of the unit. Check your state law.

    LIDAR is similar to RADAR. However, RADAR must be perfectly parallel with the roadway to accurately measure the speed of a moving vehicle. With LIDAR an operator (the police) can be anywhere. LIDAR system works by simple pointing the unit towards a speeding motorist at any angle or degree. After the unit is pointed at a speeding motorist, the speed is displayed on the unit.

    You may use the same line of defense with LIDAR as with the RADAR system.

  9. Visual Estimation
  10. This system, to my knowledge, is only used in very few states, and is becoming obsolete. The system is very simple but most definitely the worst way to measure the speed of a moving vehicle. The police simply look at your vehicle and visually estimate the speed of your vehicle. After obtaining a visual estimation you will be stopped and receive a ticket for speeding. A police officer is trained on visual estimation with the use of radar correlating your speed with the RADAR or LIDAR unit. However, with simple visual estimation the police officer could have a 1 to 6 mph error or even more.