Written by Andrew Tiedt
Published under News
October 22, 2015
An article recently appeared in the Daily Telegraph that has provoked further debate about Police prosecutions for speeding.
According to the article, a Defendant was arguing that the certification for the Police Radar Gun was deficient, meaning that the speed measurement could not be relied upon in Court.
The laws around the use of speed measuring devices are extremely powerful, provided the rules are followed to the letter. A person who was caught on a speed measuring device is deemed to be travelling that speed unless that person is able to present expert evidence that demonstrates why the device's result should not be relied upon. This is obviously an expensive process for a defendant, and as a consequence it is very difficult to defend these charges.
However, in order to take advantage of those laws, police needs to jump through a number of hoops. The suggestion in the present case is that they have not done so, and on that basis the charge should be dismissed.
In the present case the police were granted an adjournment to go and check the paperwork and see whether in fact it was deficient.
The difficulty for the Defendant is that even if the police do not have the benefit of the Radar device they are still able to reply on a "police estimate".
In any circumstance, whether or not there has been an attempt to use a lidar device, Police are able to estimate the speed of a car. The argument is that Police are highly experienced in this task and are therefore proficient in estimating the speed of a vehicle. In this way the evidence of police is can be regarded as being expert evidence.
Opinions differ whether Police are in fact so skilled, and it may well be the case that Police’s ability to estimate a speed is no better than that of the average person.
In any event, it is the case that Police able able to estimate speeds and argue that the estimate is good enough that it can be relied upon to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person was in fact speeding.
This is a common fall back for Police when the Radar was for some reason not working or where it was simply not convenient to use the Radar.
These charges can often be defended by attacking the estimate itself and in particular the circumstances in which it was obtained. Was it dark? How long had the Police Officer been able to see the car? Were there other cars with which the driver’s speed could be compared? All of these questions can go to whether the estimate given by Police is in fact a reliable estimate and whether the Prosecution has thereby proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Police can also conduct speed checks, where they drive behind the target vehicle and keep a set distance for a period of no less than three seconds. If this is done properly, it can provide a very accurate estimate of speed as the Highway Patrol police speedometers are very accurately calibrated on a regular basis.
However, this estimate of course relies upon Police being able to keep a constant distance for a longer period of time, which is almost impossible if the car in question is not keeping a constant speed.
In short, whilst Radar devices can be an extremely powerful weapon for Police, their use is closely controlled by the legislation, and is incumbent upon Police to make sure they satisfy all the prerequisites to rely upon that speed measuring device. If a person believes that they were not speeding as alleged by Police, a Subpoena to the relevant bodies can often turn up a wealth of information that can be used to defend the charge. Unfortunately, you never know until you look.