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  #1  
Old 02-04-2004, 08:19 AM
Chowmein Chowmein is offline
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Police Speed/Radar Trap On Private Property

Is it legal for a police officer to sit on private land and run a speed trap? I know if he/she is on private land and happens to witnesses a crime then he/she can fully enforce the law at that point. But there is an officer in my office’s parking lot that is sitting in his car, running his radar, and using private land specifically to catch people speeding on public land. Thus, he is generating revenue for the city by using private land without giving any reimbursement to the land owner.

Do I have any right to ask the officer to leave, even though I don’t own the land? I just work in the office, but I don’t enjoy the thought of the police using the office’s land to generate revenue and not giving any reimbursement to my office. If I were to get pulled over by this police officer, would I have an out for the speeding ticket? Could I say that he should never have nabbed me because he didn’t have the permission of the property owner (if it turns out he truly doesn’t have the permission)? Or, can a police officer to whatever (legal or illegal) he wants where ever he wants until the owner of the property asks him to leave? Keep in mind, the parking lot the officer is in has no retail establishments, only office buildings/cube farms. So, he should have no reason to be on this property (unless he was called to the property, has a relative that works in the office, or he has witnessed some illegal activity taking place on the private land.)
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  #2  
Old 02-04-2004, 11:44 AM
Voyager Voyager is online now
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When I lived in NJ, I worked at an AT&T facility which had a long driveway. I saw our security guard chase a local cop who was sitting there trolling for speeders away. So I'm sure the owner of the property could ask him to leave, but I don't know the answers to the rest of your questions.
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  #3  
Old 02-04-2004, 11:49 AM
Starbury Starbury is offline
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I suspect it depends on what state you are in. Here in New Jersey, I have seen a few instances of a cop using a radar gun on passing traffic while parked in a residential home's driveway. Though I guess this doesn't mean the cop is actually allowed to do this, just that noone had complained.

I haven't been able to find any concrete laws on the internet concerning this.

The best I could find was this PA statute, but I think it only applies to civilian traffic:

Quote:

§ 3717. Trespass by motor vehicle.

(a) General rule.--It is unlawful for a person to knowingly operate a motor
vehicle on private real property other than a private road or driveway
without consent of the owner or lessor of the real property.
(b) Operation of motor vehicle on private road or driveway
prohibited.--Except when necessary as a result of emergency or when
necessary to provide the operator a means of turning his vehicle around on
portions of highways where no other means of turning around is provided, it
is unlawful, without the consent of the owner or lessor, for a person to
knowingly operate a motor vehicle on a private road or driveway. There shall
be a rebuttable presumption that a person has knowingly violated this
subsection if the owner or lessor of the road or driveway has placed, at or
near the points of entry from public or private vehicular access, a gate,
fence or similar obstruction or a readily visible sign that would reasonably
convey that the unauthorized operation of motor vehicles on the road or
driveway is prohibited.
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  #4  
Old 02-04-2004, 12:30 PM
Jurph Jurph is offline
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The restaurant I worked at was the northernmost property within the town limits, and the town in question is a resort town. The town had a divided highway (55mph zone) leading up to a stop light (usually green) which was the boundary for the 35mph zone that covers the whole town. Understandably, the local cops loved to park their cars in such a way as to bust speeding tourists, and our restaurant was a great place from which to do it.

Our boss--the owner--knows that his business comes from those same tourists, and told the local police that they were welcome to eat at his establishment off duty or on breaks, but that they were specifically not welcome to use his large sign as a place to hide a car for the purposes of a speed trap, and if they were going to park, they could use one of the employee spots, thankyouverymuch. In the six years I worked there, I saw police cars sitting in the motel lot across the street, in the strip mall lot next door, but never on his property.

So yes, the property owner can request that they not be there. You can approach the car and ask the officer "does Mr. XXXXXX know you're here?" as though surprised that he would allow it, but beyond that, I think it's basically a property/land issue.
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  #5  
Old 02-04-2004, 01:24 PM
Lampare Lampare is offline
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"Permission? We don't need no stinkin' permission!"

I can beat that.

My home is situated on a hill and my garage is actually part of the basement level. The driveway is accessed via an alley. Standing in my driveway, a person has a clear view into the backyards of half a dozen nearby homes.

Several years ago, on a balmy summer Saturday, I happened to look out my dining room window and noticed a strange car backed into my driveway. Sitting in the car were a man and a woman. I decided to go outside and see what was up. As I walked down the steps leading to the driveway, I had a chance to look at the car and its occupants, and knew even before I got there that they were cops.

The guy, who was in the driver’s seat, glanced up at me as I approached. He had his badge out before I got to the unmarked car. I asked them what they were doing. They explained that they were watching the back of one of the houses on the next street that held a “person of interest”. I was struck by their rudeness. They had the attitude that they had the right to be parked in my driveway and they seemed annoyed that I was talking to them and blowing their cover.

I was in a quandary. On one hand, I was a miffed that they felt they could use my property without permission. On the other hand, I had no desire to cultivate the active animosity of the cops. So I settled for a reasonable compromise. I took a seat on the concrete steps next to the driveway and started asking them, in a none-too-quiet voice, questions about their current assignment and police work in general. They caught on pretty quickly for cops, and realizing that they couldn’t very well ask me to leave my own property, they eventually rolled up the windows and took off.

I still marvel at the arrogant leap of logic that made those cops think they could use my driveway without my permission. But at least I got an interesting story out of it.

Lampare
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  #6  
Old 02-04-2004, 02:15 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
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On the considerable other hand...

In some municipalities here in Missouri, the owner of the property (I'm talking about usually a shopping center here) has given police absolute authority not just to park in the lot, but to patrol it and ticket drivers. And there are many convenience or open-all night-stores here (and I'm sure other places, too) that designate an area as a "police substation." Obviously the police have permission to come on the premises.

If you're really offended by the presence of the police on the property, I'd suggest complaining to the site owner or manager. It's their responsibility to manage access to your office.
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  #7  
Old 02-04-2004, 02:42 PM
js_africanus js_africanus is offline
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The physical road is usually smaller than the right of way (ROW) that the city, county, or state owns. They may own a 66' wide strip that the road is on, but the road may only be 40' wide. The extra space belongs to which ever gov't body owns the road and they are free to use it.

The sheriff's deputy just walked in: The area outside the white line but within the roadway is free for anybody to use. (No parking areas notwithstanding??)

IIRC, generally the sidewalk will be within ROW, so that should give you a good idea of just how wide ROWs can be.

Hope that helps,

js_works for local government_africanus
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  #8  
Old 02-04-2004, 11:32 PM
Mog16 Mog16 is offline
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A few questions. Regarding right of way, does this mean that if your house lies within the 66 feet that they may enter your house (up to the 66' mark) as it is part of right of way. Second if an officer is parked in your driveway without your permission and you pull in behind him blocking him in can he use official powers to make you move your car?
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  #9  
Old 02-05-2004, 07:05 AM
Badge Badge is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chowmein
Thus, he is generating revenue for the city by using private land without giving any reimbursement to the land owner.
This is really irrelevant. The property owner would have no right to any part of any revenue raised. It's not like he's running a commercial venture in your parking lot.

Quote:
Do I have any right to ask the officer to leave, even though I don’t own the land?
Only if you have the authority to ask any other citizen to leave the property. If you can legally order anyone else off the property, you should be able to do so to an Officer. I'd check with your boss first: he or she may actually want the officer there if it make things safer in front of the business, or if he/she just wants to foster a good relationship with the cops.

Quote:
I were to get pulled over by this police officer, would I have an out for the speeding ticket?
No. You were still speeding - it wouldn't matter where the officer was when he got you on RADAR.

Quote:
Or, can a police officer to whatever (legal or illegal) he wants where ever he wants until the owner of the property asks him to leave?
Basically, if any other citizen can be on the property, so can a police officer. If the parking lot is legally posted that only employees are allowed in the parking lot, then he shouldn't be there in the first place. If it isn't, then someone with authority over the property can ask him to leave. Other wise, he can be there legally.

It's the same at your home: if anyone else can walk up to your front door, so can I. If I see something illegal while I'm there, there is no violation of your Fourth Amendment rights (i.e. illegal search).
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  #10  
Old 02-05-2004, 07:10 AM
Badge Badge is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mog16
A few questions. Regarding right of way, does this mean that if your house lies within the 66 feet that they may enter your house (up to the 66' mark) as it is part of right of way.
I don't think that could ever happen. Building codes require the building to be a certain distance back from the property line, and the propery line starts at the right of way.
What js_africanus was saying is that about 10' (that can vary) beyond the edge of the road may be right of way, so your driveway may be partially in the right of way and so not actually your private property.
Quote:
Second if an officer is parked in your driveway without your permission and you pull in behind him blocking him in can he use official powers to make you move your car?
Of course. You could be looking at a charge of Obstructing an Officer because you are preventing him or her from performing their duties.
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  #11  
Old 02-05-2004, 07:42 AM
js_africanus js_africanus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Badge
Of course. You could be looking at a charge of Obstructing an Officer because you are preventing him or her from performing their duties.
At the same time, I would imagine that you have a legal right to use the engress-egress access to your property, and that the officer does not have a legal right (absent some sort of emergency, etc.) to block your access. So you may be obstructing her when she needs to pull out, but she may also find herself taking an "involuntary vacation" for blocking your road access without good reason for doing so. On this point I am speculating, and I would imagine that the law varies by state and I can't even begin to guess the in's and out's of this question.
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