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Legal Matters: Speeding ticket defense

Being pulled over for a speeding infraction by a police officer or highway traffic officer is one of the most annoying events that can occur to a driver on the road. It is possible that when you are t...


Being pulled over for a speeding infraction by a police officer or highway traffic officer is one of the most annoying events that can occur to a driver on the road. It is possible that when you are targeted as a speeder the officer operating the speed-recording device (typically radar or laser) has made an error in the device’s use and operation.

If you have been stopped for a speeding infraction and you feel you were not speeding the following information might be of assistance.

Don’t say anything

When an officer pulls you over and begins the process of writing out a speeding ticket – don’t say anything.

One of the most frustrating things I see is when a client brings me a ticket and I see the officer has written on the reverse side of the ticket that the driver said “Can’t you just give me a break?” or “I was only travelling a little over the speed limit.”

These statements can be used as evidence against the driver in court, and will often contribute to a driver being found guilty. If the officer asks you a question like “Why were you speeding?” or “You know you were doing 120 km/h in a 100 km/h zone?” politely respond by saying “I would prefer not to say anything at this time.”

If the officer keeps persisting that you provide him with an answer continue to politely reply “I have nothing more to say.” Provide the officer with your insurance, registration and driver’s licence and be on your way.

When will a Court accept a speed reading?

Typically, for an officer’s evidence with respect to the use and operation of a speed-recording device to be upheld in court, he or she must be able to satisfy the court of three things: First, the officer must prove they were trained in the use of the instrument they were operating and they were thoroughly familiar with its use.

Second, the operator must also give evidence that they conducted approved tests on the instrument, to make sure that it was working properly.

Third, they must prove that the instrument was capable of recording speeds accurately in km/h. (See R. v. O’ Reilly [1979] A.J. No. 554.)

In R. v. Farnand [2004] O.J. No. 767 the speeding charge was dismissed because there was no evidence that the officer had read the manual that accompanied the speed-recording device in question.

Hence it cannot be said he was thoroughly familiar with the unit’s use and operation. In R. v. Soungie [2003] O.J. No. 2338 the court dismissed the ticket because it was not clear that the officer tested the radar device with a tuning fork both before and after his shift. In R. v. Hough [1998] O.J. No. 5835 and R. v. Brewer [1988] O.J. No. 2531the case was dismissed because the officer testing the device struck the tuning-fork on an ashtray, not in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Things that can go wrong with radar

Speed recording-devices are not foolproof. There are several different factors that could contribute to false readings. Here is a list of a few taken from an article on the Web called Common Traffic Radar Operator Errors www.escortradar.com/errors.htm:

* Antenna Positioning Error: radar beams travel in a straight line, so it is possible that an improperly positioned antenna is recording the speed of another moving vehicle;

* Look-Past Error: sometimes the radar beam will provide a signal of not the closest moving vehicle but the biggest moving vehicle “the typical sedan did not show up on the radar until it was less than 1,200 feet away from the antenna, but the same radar unit locked onto a semi at 7,600 feet.”;

* Double-Bounce Error: a signal bounces off several moving vehicles at once.

Other types of errors that could occur include: Radio-Interference Error; Vehicle Interference Error; Cosine Error; Beam Reflection Error; Road-sign error; and Fan-Interference error.

Traffic tickets generate a significant amount of money for provincial coffers each year. Most people who are charged with speeding plead guilty or don’t dispute the charges.

If you have been ticketed and feel that you were not speeding, you might very well be right that an error occurred in the use and operation of a speed recording-device.

Machines, computers and the people who operate them are susceptible to error.

– Rory Ziv is a lawyer practising in Alberta. He can be reached at 780-686-7948 or 780-459-1284. Or snail mail him at: #108 – 50 St., Thomas Street, St Albert, Alberta T8N 6Z8.


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