One of the most frustrating things that can happen while driving is receiving a speeding ticket, especially when you were “just going the speed of traffic.” Many motorists believe that speeding tickets are impossible to fight because of how seemingly straightforward they are, but after you finish reading this primer, you will have an idea of some of the defenses that attorneys can employ to fight and beat a speeding ticket.
The Speeding Statute
In Pennsylvania, virtually all speeding violations fall under 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3362. The statute says, in so many words: “Don’t speed!”. But a couple sections later in the vehicle code lie more rules, in 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3368 (Speed Timing Devices). In § 3368 are regulations officers must abide by when determining a vehicle’s speed, and more importantly, when a reading from a speed timing device cannot be used to determine speed for a speeding ticket. Many tickets are dismissed because the officers do not follow the rules, and a careful parsing of the statute reveals many possible defenses.
Types of Speed Timing Devices, and Defenses to Them
There are three main types of devices that officers may use in order to determine a person’s speed: Radar, VASCAR/ENRADD, and the officer’s speedometer. If ANY of the rules below are not followed, a driver will have a solid case against the speeding ticket.
Radar: ONLY State Troopers are permitted to use radar guns to clock a driver’s speed. The radar guns must be calibrated at least once per year. A State Trooper may not record a person’s speed using radar within 500 feet of a sign indicating that a speed decreased. There is also a statutory “leeway” that says that a driver may not be pulled over if he was driving 0-5 MPH over the speed limit if the speed limit is 55 MPH or higher, and may not be pulled over if he was driving 0-9 MPH over the speed limit if the speed limit is less than 55 MPH. The 500-foot rule and statutory leeway do not apply in school and work zones.
VASCAR/ENRADD: VASCAR (Visual Average Speed Computer and Recorder) and ENRADD (Electronic Non-Radar Device) are different methods of calculating how long it takes a driver to drive past two separate markers, usually white lines painted on the road. Using VASCAR, an officer will wait for a car to come, and will use a stopwatch to manually determine how long it took the vehicle to pass between the lines. ENRADD is the same concept, but uses two electronic sensors, one at each white line, to accurately determine how much time lapsed. Both types of devices must be calibrated every 60 days. VASCAR’s weakness is in the human error that invariably exists in every speed calculation. Even though the officer must be certified to use VASCAR, human reaction time is anything but consistent. ENRADD also can give a false reading if the two sensors are not placed at exactly the same height. The same 500-foot rule “statutory leeway” that applies to radar also applies to VASCAR and ENRADD, with the only difference being that the leeway with VASCAR is only 0-5 MPH at all speed limits.
Speedometer: The last type of mechanism officers will use to determine a driver’s speed is their vehicle’s speedometer. While the average car’s speedometer is reasonably accurate, police vehicle speedometers are required to be tested and calibrated every year. Also, the officer must have followed the driver for at least 3/10 of a mile for the reading to be admissible in court. Other factors can also be questioned by attorneys, including how far away the officer was, weather conditions, and whether the officer was distracted or multitasking. The 500-foot rule and “statutory leeway” do not apply to speed readings using a speedometer.
Other defenses: In addition to the rules and defenses above, there are some other general defenses available. Emergency is one, in that a driver was speeding because extraordinary circumstances required it. Another rule is that when the speed limit is less than 55 MPH, speed limit signs must be posted at least every half-mile.
We hope that this primer provides hope for any readers who have received a speeding ticket. In summary, many traffic tickets can be beaten if the device was not calibrated recently or other rules were not followed. Often, attorneys can negotiate a charge to a lesser offense. To read more about traffic violations click here, and to speak to one of our traffic and criminal defense attorneys, contact us today.