Speedtrap/Legality Question

This incident happened to a woman I work with. I told my husband about it and we had a big discussion on the legalities of what happened. I’m asking you all if this was legal, not to help the woman I work with (whom I think was probably in the wrong, knowing her), but to win the argument with my husband! :slight_smile: Also, I’m going to tell you what she told me happened; I have no idea if this is the whole, true story, but it doesn’t matter because the discussion I had with my husband was based on her story.

Setting: South Carolina
Mrs. A is driving along a 4 lane divided highway with a 45 mph speed limit. She sees up ahead, in the 25 mph school zone, several police officers (7-10), lights flashing, pulling people over. Seeing this, she slows down. As she approaches the speed trap, an officer steps out and signals for her to pull over. She does this, but cop does not immediately approach vehicle (there are about 5 other people pulled over also). Another police officer, who was not immediately behind her, pulls up and parks. He gets out of his car and approaches her car. As he does so, he says to the officer who pulled Mrs. A, “What’d you clock her at?” The officer who waved Mrs. A over says, “41” then gets into his car and leaves.

The second officer proceeds to write the ticket. Mrs. A says, “I know I wasn’t going 41. Can I see the radar gun?” The officer says, “No, you’ll have to take it up with the other guy and he left.” Then he write the ticket for $170 and 4 points.

Now, in my opinion, she was probably speeding and probably deserves to get the ticket. This is the second time she’s been pulled over in two weeks and has a history of deplorable driving. She also has a history of saying it’s never her fault and the cops are out to get her.

Legally, though, if she takes this to court, did the cops mess this one up? I thought if she asked to see the radar gun, they had to show it to her. Also, how can the cop who didn’t clock her and never saw the gun be the one who writes the ticket? What evidence does he have?

My husband (who, incidentally, thinks that the system should be guilty until proven innocent :rolleyes: ) thinks that one cop’s word to another cop would stand up in court.

So, were these policemen half-assing this a bit or do you think they were following standard procedure? Is this a legally sound way of pulling people over for speeding?

I’ve no idea about looking at the radar gun - that type of disclosure would depend heavily on the law of the particular jurisdiction.

With respect to the second officer writing the ticket, that shouldn’t be a problem. The general rule under the common law is that officers can rely on hearsay for the initial stages of an investigation, such as applying for warrants or laying informations. After all, in a complex investigation, you may literally have dozens of officers, with no-one having complete personal knowledge of everything. It’s usually sufficient for one officer to lay the information. (Note - this issue may be subject to additional statutory requirements in a particular jurisdiction).

However, hearsay is not sufficient for a conviction, and if the lady goes to court, the prosecutor would have to call the officer who actually clocked her, to testify from his personal knowledge about her speed.

Technically, the cops do not assess guilt, that is up to the judge.

The cop writing the ticket has reasonable grounds to think she broke the law. If she takes it to court, the other cop will need to be there to give evidence since he was the one who witnessed the crime.

Since the Radar gun was used on Multiple cars at this point showing her the gun was not necessarily going to show her actual speed. The Truth is in most jurisdictions, speed violations are not proven by the Radar/Laser/VasCar they are based upon the estimate of the officer, and this is enough to write a ticket. He/she merely provides his corroborating evidence through one of the devices.

Try and find a Book called “A Speeders Guid to Avoiding Tickets” it’s written by an Ex New York State trooper. I loaned my copy away quite some time ago, so I can’t cite it now but it was a great little book and explained these problems quite clearly.

From the National Motorists Association FAQs page:

Other information on the NMA site may of use to you.

My understanding is, as previous posters have mentioned, that cop hearsay is enough to get you a ticket. In court, by comparison, the cop who did the clocking would have to personally attest to the clocking.

So, to answer your questions, as far as I understand it, this situation is both following standard procedure and a legally acceptable method for ticketing speeders.



I don’t know about South Carolina, but in Georgia, local cops (as opposed to state patrol) have to offer to test their radar for you. Oddly, though, they do not have to show you the radar. (They do a calibration test using a tuning fork, I think. You don’t get to watch while they do it.)

There are numerous other hoops that local cops must jump through in Georgia. There are regulations requiring that the cop be visible from at least x feet away, a law that they can’t set up within x feet of a sign which reduces the speed limit, regulations prohibiting use of radar on hills exceeding a certain % grade, etc.

Those laws do not apply to the State Patrol. I assume the legislature was only concerned with preventing revenue-generating speed traps set up by local cops.

Again, I don’t know the law in South Carolina, but you may be able to dig around and find it on findlaw.com.

On the other issue, the cop who did the clocking has to testify, or else your acquaintance can make a valid hearsay objection.

Here in Massachusetts (At least last time I fought a ticket) they allow one cop to stand in for all the cops who write tickets. He just reads their report of the incident, when you make an argument he just rereads the report, then you get the ticket :rolleyes:.


I guess I lost the argument, then. Don’t mention it to my husband, okay? Maybe if I don’t say anything tonight, he’ll forget about it.

My co-worker, by the way, has a husband who’s a big poobah in town, so he’s having the ticket “taken care of” for her. :mad: I can’t stand people like that.

That’s very true, at a Magistrates Hearing where most tickets are adjudicated. You can appeal your conviction at that level and have a Trial by Judge, and at that point the prosecutor will be required to have the actual officer present. Most states work that way, I know that’s what I did when I lived in Massachusetts.

In the case stated in the OP, both officers would have to be present at a trial, as well as any others who may have had anything to do with the citation. If I was this woman, I would appeal the magistrates decision, and go to trial. If any of the officers can’t make it to support The State’s case, voila, dismissal.

Worked for me once

:stuck_out_tongue:I fought the law, and I won!:stuck_out_tongue:

If she was speeding, why is she whining? Because she feels that she slowed down before they could have actually caught her? Sorry, but that kind of thing grates me. Requirements for setting up a speed trap or a drunk check to give speeders and drunks a fair chance to elude the cops? “I was breaking the law, but feel I was caught doing in unfairly”… Hey, break the law, take the lumps. Don’t want speeding tickets? Don’t speed… pretty simple. Wanna roll the dice? Go for it, but don’t bitch about the ticket when you get one.

I’m a little confused here. Where was she going 41 mph? You say she slowed down before getting to the school zone. She didn’t slow down enough?

Anachronism, You’re getting taken for a ride. Always ask for the court date. Then they have to get the real policeman to show up. Which 98% of the time, he has better things to do than harrass some speeder from 3 months ago. You should basically never have to pay a speeding ticket in Massachusetts if you’re willing to take time off work to fight out. I got out of 4 out of 4, my friend (fastest car in Middlesex County) averaged 4-5 tickets a day, and would go a couple years at a stretch without one standing up in court.

And I also highly reccomend the book someone else referenced.

In my state, there must be a Speed Zone Survey for the street that a radar is used on. If the survey says that the safe speed is 40 & the speed limit is 25 & you get a ticket for going 40, you win.

I’ll say it again, read Beat That Ticket or an equivalent book, say from Nolo Press.

Speeding tickets have been covered here many many times.

She’s saying that she was not going 41. She says that when she saw what was going on up ahead, she slowed down to 25. Keep in mind that the speed limit on the road is 45, then goes down to 25 in the section of the road that’s designated “School Zone.” The police say that she was still going 41 after she had entered the school zone. She says she wasn’t. That’s why she wanted to see the radar gun.

Turbo Dog, I completely agree with you. I personally think, based on my past experiences with this woman, that she was speeding. I’ve been in the car with her and she’s an extremely bad driver. Like I said, she has a history of being pulled over then whining about it. She has a history of doing a lot of things that are “against the rules” and whining when she gets caught. The discussion I had with my husband really had nothing to do with whether she was guilty or not; we were just have an “academic” discussion on the legalities of what happened.

I do think that if they’re going to go to the trouble of setting up a speed trap, and they really want it to be effective, they should follow proper procedures so that people can’t weasel out of the tickets by going to court and bringing up all sorts of technicalities. I wish that they had clocked her, the clocking cop had shown her the gun, and the same cop had written the ticket. That way, there would be no question and she’d have just written her check and lumped it with the four points. When little mistakes are made by the police, people who are inclined to snake the system will try to do that. It sounds like from everything that you all have said, though, that they did follow proper procedures and will just need both cops in court to testify.

That point is moot, though. She’s done the ultimate snake of the system…she just speaks to her husband, who speaks to a few of his golfing buddies, and she doesn’t have to worry about the ticket anymore.


OK, if the safe speed is 40, why is the speed limit at 25? Anyone else sense a problem there?

Reminds me of one of the (many) reasons I drive my wife crazy. Also back in Massachusetts, they started putting up big speed detector signs at random spots. Just a big electronic display telling you fast you were going, with a note about what the actual speed limit in that area was.

Clearly, the idea was that a motorist would be going 42 mph, see the display with their speed on it, compare it to the posted speed limit of 30, realize they were 12 over the limit, and slow down. I, on the other hand, would turn to my wife and say, “I’m going 12 mph over the speed limit, I’m driving safely, so is every other person on this road. They should raise the speed limit in this area.”

(At which point, she whaps me on the arm, then I lecture in my best holier-than-thou voice about the dangers of distracting the driver.)

“OK, if the safe speed is 40, why is the speed limit at 25?”

Ah, but I didn’t write the Speed law & how many laws are logical?

I read Beat That Ticket, it explains it just like I said.

Why? 'Cause it’s a School zone. You didn’t mention the grade level, but even High School students have been known to walk out in the road…

As a cop in the NYPD here’s what I know and the only reason I’m tagging onto this very long string is that my answer is different. A summons is a court document. It’s a legal document that when the cops signs it, means he is telling the truth. To lie on the summons would be akin to perjuring himself.

 I can't write someone a ticket for not wearing their seatbelt even if another cop tells me they weren't, because I didn't see it. That's all that matter in New York State. I'm swearing on the summons that this lady was speeding. How do I know that if another officer made the call. What they should have done is take turns with the radar gun and then they would all write tickets and allow the one cop on the radar gun to sign them. But this means not as many officers get activity and that's no good. Just my 2 cents worth.

I know a little bit about how these are done, how they’re used, and how they’re abused.

A Speed Zone Survey, at least in California, is typically performed by a licensed civil engineer, who sits by the side of the road with a radar unit and a clipboard. On a tally sheet, s/he marks the speed of all the cars that pass during the survey period. The survey has to be done during periods of clear, dry weather, with no unusual impediments or hazards. In other words, conditions that would yield the highest speeds possible for a given roadway. The surveyor then does a pretty straightforward analysis of the speed data. IIRC, standards issued by the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recommend that the 85th percentile from that speed survey is the maximum safe speed, or the de facto speed limit. Generally speaking, the guidelines recommend rounding down to the next 5 MPH increment. AASHTO standards also provide some guidelines for reducing the posted speed limit from the 85th percentile. For the most part, the two major criteria for such a reduction are (1) high accident rate where excessive speed is a direct cause; and (2) the presence of hidden hazards. (Note that, if you can see a hazard, it is not hidden.)

So that’s how Speed Zone Surveys are done and used. How are they abused? Well, in California, not many local jurisdictions (that is, cities) set their speed limits according to the recommendations of a Speed Zone Survey. Where I live, for instance, speed limits are set more by city councilmembers looking to make brownie points by being Protectors Of The Realm. They do this by ordering city staff to put in stop signs and reducing speed limits in response to citizen complaints about people speeding down their street. I know of one judge, who, when presented with a Speed Zone Survey of a major street in town, told the citing officer that he’d be better off not writing any more tickets on that street, because the judge would likely dismiss every one. So the most common way they’re abused is that they’re simply ignored.

The second most common way they’re abused is that the city engineer may be directed to recommend a certain speed as a result of a survey, whether by skewing the data, or by misapplying one of the reduction criteria offered by AASHTO standards.

One more thing - in California, speed limits do not need to be validated by Speed Zone Surveys. Radar enforcement of speed limits, on the other hand, may only be lawfully done on streets with a valid Speed Zone Survey.

You’re right- Screw police requirements. Let 'em do their job already. Us God fearing, law abiding, apple pie loving citizens are sick of you people. The ends justify the means- you broke the law? Deal with it and shut up.

And while were at it, up the bill of rights too. It’s not like it’s ever done anything for me! All I’ve ever seen it do is protect those nasty criminals. Put 'em in jail and throw away the key, that’s what I say, the bunch of law breaking whiners.

People like you scare me.