Defenses Against Speed Reading Instruments in Maryland

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Speed reading instruments used in Maryland are generally accurate and difficult to discredit. However, there are some effective defenses which a traffic lawyer can raise against speed reading instrument readings, as well as pacing evidence. When radar instruments are calibrated correctly, it is difficult to counter that testimony in court, especially when an officer has evidence that the speed reading instrument was calibrated right before using the equipment to determine a person’s speed.

Lack of Officer Training

Lack of officer training is a possible defense to a speeding violations, however, most modern radar units are easy to operate and the officers using them do not have to be certified or licensed.

However, using a radar gun does takes practice and skill. The attorney can ask, as a defense, if the officer had any comprehensive instruction by an experienced instructor. It looks bad for the prosecution when an officer never had any formal instruction in the use of radar equipment.

Improper Calibration

Improper calibration of the equipment is another possible defense. A radar gun must be checked for accuracy against an object traveling at a known speed. If the speed on the equipment matches the known speed, then the unit is properly calibrated. Some courts hold that the only acceptable method of calibrating a radar unit is to use a certified tuning fork as the moving object. As a defense, an attorney can ask how the radar gun was calibrated before the officer used the equipment to determine the speed that the person was driving.

Operator Error

There are a number of ways that Maryland police officers produce false radar readings. For example, an officer may not realize that from a distance of a few hundred feet, a radar beam is wide enough to cover multiple lanes of traffic. The officer could have clocked a nearby vehicle instead of the person charged with speeding. This is why it is important to determine what kind of instruction, if any, an officer was given in terms of using the equipment.

Other Issues With Radar Instruments

There may be a mistake in the reading of another vehicle’s speed if a nearby vehicle is larger than the vehicle being targeted. If a larger vehicle, such as a truck, is rapidly coming up behind someone in the same lane, the officer may see the car while the radar instrument is reading the truck’s speed.

Errors may also occur due to adverse weather conditions. On windy days, when leaves are blown about, the wind can be read by radar devices. Heavy rain can also give false signals. The more rain or wind at the time of the reading, the more likely an erroneous radar reading will result.

It is helpful to have the police report in trying to prove these defenses. On police reports, there is a description of the weather. Officers are required to write down any adverse weather conditions.

Based on the report, the attorney can ask the officer questions to determine if it was possible that heavy wind or rain could have caused an erroneous reading by the device.

Admissibility of Pacing

To read speed by pacing, an officer must maintain a constant distance between the police vehicle and the individual’s car long enough to make a reasonably accurate estimate of its speed. It is very uncommon for an officer to use the pacing method because it is not as accurate as using equipment that will electronically calculate someone’s speed. However, it is admissible evidence if an officer is able to show what his speed was showing on his speedometer, and how much of a distance was between the officer’s car and the car that was being tracked.

Some of the issues or defenses against pacing include the interference of hills, curbs, traffic lights, and stop signals to prove that an officer did not pace the person’s car long enough. The further back the officer, the less accurate the pace. An officer must keep an equal distance between his car and the individual’s car for the entire time that they are being paced. Pacing is much more difficult at dusk or nighttime. It is more accurate on a straight road with no hills where the officer can see the person’s vehicle continuously.