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  • Stopping for speed

    I have got into discussion with my coworker regard stopping people for speed based on visual estimation. Visual estimation is part of a method use in the operation of a radar. They would not have a radar in their vehicle, but make a traffic stop on a vehicle that was speeding. They also feel that based on their training that they can stop vehicles based on what is called guessing.

    My argument is this:

    a). The course that they studied was a radar course, not a visual estimation course.

    b). The stop is so weak, it can open doors to profiling charges and civil right violations because you are detaining somebody by going by a "guess". How do you know if a person is being stopped because he black or hispanic or his/her state tag from a state know for drug smuggling. Furthermore, you don't have a radar in your vehicle to verify you guess to be correct.

    c). They not writing people for the speed violation. But when you're doing 27-29 checks on them, if their license is suspended, you write them for that. Also, they run the passenger in the vehicle too.

    d). Some of the guys who is doing the traffic stop have not been to a radar course.

    e). They told that my radar training was from a different state and it does not count here. However, the methodlogy of the operational procedure of radar is the same, regardless of what state you got it. The only difference is the state requirement and the understanding of speed laws in that state.

    I would LOVE to here from guys, especially troopers and motormen. My opinion is that when you stop a person for speed based on visual estimation only, it is a UNLAWFUL DETENTION of that person and any other law enforcement action is a violation of a person civil rights.

  • #2
    You may think that and there is a lot of gray area in search and seisure. Remember though that you only need reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop. And based on training and experience it is not that hard to tell when a car is going 10+ mph over speed limit especially if there is other traffic going the speed limit. Whether or not you actually get a conviction is another thing and probably you won't write for the speeding based on a "guess". More likely it would be RD and a conviction would depend on the officer's reputation and experience (with no other evidence...radar, pacing, etc.).

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    • #3
      Stopping someone on a visual estimation is totally legitimate in my books. I've used the visual technique numerous times and even written a couple of tickets using it (of course I wieghed in all of the other circumstances). I even got an impaired driver conviction because I initially pulled the guy over because I estimated he was doing 115 km/h in a 100 km/h zone.

      If I pull someone over based on visual estimation and I end up finding drugs, etc. and Joe Pinhead gets charged, I don't care if the charges get dropped because I didn't have a radar on/in the vehicle. My goal is to get the drugs of the street and the drunks off the road. I will use ANY excuse to stop a vehicle. When it's 3 am, and there is only one other vehicle on the road, I will find a reason to pull it over. If it happens to be based on visualizing speed, then so be it. If the person happens to be a law abiding person, and has a good reason to be on the road at that time, I usually explain to them that there have been a lot of impaired drivers lately and that I'm trying to make the road safer for them. I've never had a person mad about being pulled over when I use this explanation.

      I will continue to use this method. Another good one to use.... dirty licence plate.
      But by the grace of God, I am what I am.
      1 Corinthians 15:10

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      • #4
        Matman1: Thanks (I love it when someone makes me research something). I pulled out one of my police book (Tactics for Criminal Patrol, Calber Press) and did some reading into what you stated about reasonable suspicion. You stated that all you need is reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop. My argument to that is reasonable suspicion is mainly used for when you stop a vehicle for an infraction and during your roadside interview you have a feeling that a crime is, has or is about to be committed. I'm talking about everthing prior to the stop. Do I have enough probable cause to stop that vehicle for speed.

        In my jurisdiction, I have alot of inclining/declining roads and curve. Curves can cause an optical illusions. You may think a car is going fast but once it straight, its at a normal speed or even at 10 mile above.

        Remember, the difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause is that reasonable suspicion is a person could be involved in a crime. Probable cause means that a person is more likely involved in a crime. Unless it extremly excessive, speed is an infraction.

        Other than that, you make some good points that I will keep in mind. Thanks

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        • #5
          DUI Eliminator: If you can direct me to those case laws, I would greatly appricate it.

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          • #6
            I was referring to your Unlawful Detention comment. Therefore only needing reasonable suspicion for any traffic stop not PC making it not an unlawful dentention. Granted there isn't going to be much more investigation after the vehicle is stopped as to whether they were speeding or not unless you ask them how fast they were going and they actually give you how fast they were going ie. 60/45. Although rare, it does happen every now and then. I got a guy on a sportbike the other day going 94/65. When I asked him if he knew how fast he was going he stated, "about 100". I wasn't expecting that. Glad I could help.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by DUI_eliminator
              Not only can you visually estimate but you dont have to go to a radar school to run radar. I just went to court on a visual estimation where the stop ended in a DUI arrest. The defense argued what you are talking about, but lost. There are also some case laws regarding same.
              Just FYI so you don't get jammed up in the future, according to 40802 VC radar operators have to take a 24hrs class approved by POST and an additional 2 hrs to use LASER.

              Speed stops based on estimations are very common. You have to be able to convince the court of your expertise in estimations and you should have no problems.

              If I remember correctly this came about from a Sacramento PD case. I will pull out my manual and see if I can find the case law.
              Cowboys in town. Trouble expected.

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              • #8
                I have stopped vehicles before only "estimating" speed. But it has only been the cases that were very obvious for me.

                Like late at night and you are approaching an intersection and a blur goes by in front of you going airbourne across the intersection. Or you hear that motor cycle engine rev up and the biker take off MACH III.

                As far as sitting back on the highway and picking out cars going 10-15 over.... Nah
                Retired 02/01/13

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                • #9
                  visual estimate is great. I am in a department that also has foot beats so when your on foot its kinda hard to use radar

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                  • #10
                    Stopping for speed

                    The ability of an officer to estimate speed is a necessary job skill, especially in in traffic enforcement. While I would definitely prefer to have a radar in the unit, a speeding citation can be written based on officer's estimate, and pace clocking with a currently calibrated speedometer. Ideal? Certainly not. Do-able? Legal? Yes. Nowhere does racial profiling enter into the equasion, unless an Officer pulls over only/predominately Blacks, Hispanics,etc. That's always a possibilty, but it's also a seperate issue. The terms reasonable suspicion, and probable cause really don't apply in the strictest legal sense, as we are speaking of traffic violations, for which the most serious enforcement action is a citation, in most cases. An exception would be DUI,Leaving the scene, etc. In some states, certification is a requirement for a citation to be issued using radar. In states where certification is not required, many agencies require certification as a matter of department policy.

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                    • #11
                      I actually just did this the other night when my car was in the shop and the one I was using didn't have radar in it. I was sitting off the roadway watching one of the dirtbag motels for cars pulling out of it when this van came flying down the road in the left lane passing the cars on the right like they were standing still. I had to go 85 to catch up to him nearly a mile later so I figured that was good enough PC to say he was speeding. I ended up writing him a careless driving ticket, he was actually lucky I didn't have my radar cause I can gaurantee the speeding ticket would have been worse with how fast he was going.

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                      • #12
                        Just FYI, here is the information on the case law I mentioned in an earlier post. California Vs Krueger, Pantos, Payne is the case. The court took judicial notice of the scientific reliability of doppler radar devices and the accuracy when used in moving mode. The court also found the admissibility of radar readings was dependent on evidence that the operator was certified to use the equipment and was cognitive of error readings through an extensive training program.

                        The 22 page decision in Sacramento Muni Court stated that officers certified under the CHP training program who utilize radar in conformity with NHTSA statndards will operate radar error free and with scientific reliability. It also states the lack of an adequate training program for officers of another local law enforcement agency (Sac PD) caused the court to conclude that there should be a presumption against admissibility of radar reading obtained by these officers, unless evidence establishes significant experience and knowledge to overcome the lack of training.
                        Cowboys in town. Trouble expected.

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                        • #13
                          Tactics for Criminal Patrol - Good book btw

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                          • #14
                            Anybody remember VASCAR? A stopwatch, two red pieces of tape on the windshield and two eyes. If that's not visually estimating speed I'll eat my hat. I know....I know....the math is what gives you the speed...but when the violator is going really fast, it's not that easy to do the math and still catch'em. They even tried to improve VASCAR my making it a little computer thingy with a red button and automatic readout. Not too bad, but still it's the officer who makes the determination when to push it.
                            "You provide the beer, I'll provide the chaser!"

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