Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax VA
In order to tell if the Police measured your speed with radar, pace or laser, look at the left side of your Summons (aka the “ticket”) you got from the Police. About 1/3 the way down it will say “Speeding” if you were charged just for speeding, or “Reckless” if your speed was greater than 20 mph over the limit or anything over 80 mph. By that term “Speeding” or “Reckless,” most Police Officers write the method used to measure the speed of your vehicle. If it is not clear, consult an experience Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax VA and he may be able to determine it from just looking at the Summons.
“Pace” means that the Police Officer followed you and measured your speed by looking at his speedometer. This method is not super accurate because the Police Officer has to track you exactly. In other words, if he was coming up on you, his measurement would be high because he was going faster than you were. Conversely, if he was backing off of you, his measurement would be low.
“Radar” means that he clocked you using a radar device. This device measures distance (and then calculates changes in distance using the high school formula Distance = Rate x Time. Which is the same as Rate = Distance/Time). As you can see, a good Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax VA has to even know some math! Radar has been used for decades and is widely accepted in all courts. The variable with radar is that the radar waves are broad, so if there are a bunch of cars, you may be able to argue that the radar did not accurately lock onto you. The accuracy of targeting was the reason laser was invented. If on your Summons/Ticket you see the words “laser” or “LIDAR,” then you will know your speed was measured by this technology. I was serving in the Virginia General Assembly when laser was debated. At the Floor Session, a fellow Delegate who was also an inventor/scientist in electronics, explained that the laser beam is extremely small. Thus, the Police know exactly what car they are targeting. Laser uses light to measure distance and then uses the same high school formula of Distance = Rate x Time to calculate the speed of the vehicle.
It is rare that laser cases go to trial. The margin of error is so slight, but on borderline cases (e.g. Reckless by Speed for 76 – 77 in a 55 mph, or an 81 mph in a 65 mph zone) establishing an error or a margin of error with laser can be done. Here are some defenses an experienced Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax VA should be able to explain to you.
- The manufacturer does not warrant the device for fitness for a particular purpose. If they won’t stand behind the device, why should the court give it any weight?
- Ask the Police Officer if when he measured your speed, was he using a handheld device? The device must have a clear line of site and there must be minimal hand movement, if hand held. That is because, just like a pace measurement, if the laser is moving forward and back, the device is not accounting for its own movement. For example, if the Police Officer was running to you at 10 mph, then the laser would think that you are going 10 mph faster than you really are because you are closing in on the laser 10 mph faster than if the laser was stationary.
- There are three ways to test the device. In my experience, officers only testify to one method. The three tests are what I call “Aim,” “Range,” and “Differential Distance.”
- The Aim test checks to see if the device actually points to the object to which the operator thinks he is pointing. Just like a handgun, if the site is off, the bullet won’t shoot straight even if aimed straight. The operator chooses a target 100 feet away. He then sweeps across the target to ensure that the range is displayed only when the object is in the reticule area. Did the officer check to see if the laser is “aimed” properly? Note that if he only did this test, then he did not test accuracy for speed – an essential element of the case.
- The Range test checks the devices’ ability to accurately measure distance. This is an important element of the algorithm used by the device to calculate speed. The operator uses a tape measure to determine the distances for “several” objects between 50 and 500 feet. He then measures and records the reported distance for each. A Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax VA may argue that if the Police Officer only did this test, then he did not test the aim nor did he test the machine’s ability to actually do the math and calculate rate.
- The Differential Distance Test seems to test the device’s math ability. This is the only test to which I’ve ever heard an officer testify. He measures the distance and reported speed to make sure it is mathematically possible. The operator places targets of plywood or particle board painted white at two precisely know distances between 50 and 100 feet. They should be separated by at least 10 feet. The operator then changes the laser to “Dif-Test,” and shoots the two targets one time each. The machine will list a hypothetical “speed” and a “distance.” The reported speed must be double the distance — plus or minus 1. For example, if the targets are placed at 79 feet and 39 feet, the speed reading should be 79, 80, or 81. I calculate this by subtracting 39 from 79 (which is 40), and multiplying this by 2 (which is 80). I have not tried this in Court yet, but seems to me, that this still is just measuring distance. The Police should do a moving target test to see if it is accurate.
- There is a “cosine” error on the device. Cosign is the trigonometry concept that I seem to recall in high school. It is the line of a triangle adjacent the hypotenuse. What the heck? An experienced Reckless Driving attorney, may try and explain it to the Judge as follows: Think of it this way, officers do not shoot laser directly in front of cars because they don’t want to get run over. Instead, they shoot from the shoulder of the road at an angle. So there is some slight error because the laser is tested for accuracy as a straight shot, but in reality, no shots in the field are actually straight.
As you can see, these defenses are technical. You can try to use them in court on your own, but if you really cannot live with a Reckless Conviction on your record (e.g. because you have a Security Clearance or are in some highly regulated profession, then you would best be served by hiring an experienced Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax VA.