IS SAFE DRIVING A DEFENSE A SPEEDING TICKET?

If a driver can show that her excess speed did not have an effect on her ability to safely operate a vehicle, will a court recognize that as a defense to a speeding citation? The Ohio Court of Appeals sought to provide an answer to that question in State v. Hatcher, 2017-Ohio-7631.

In Hatcher, the Defendant was given a speeding ticket for traveling 92 mph in a 70mph stretch of highway. The officer recorded the Defendant’s speed using his radar and noted that the recorded speed was over the speed limit. He caught up with the Defendant and issued the Defendant a speeding ticket. At no point did the officer indicate that the Defendant operated her car in a dangerous manner because she was speeding. At trial, the trial court found the Defendant guilty of speeding and was ordered to pay a fine. The Defendant appealed her conviction.safe driving speeding attorney columbus

OHIO SPEEDING LAWS: 4511.21(B)

Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.21 governs the speed limits in Ohio. 4511.21(B)(15) states the speed limits for rural stretched of highway, similar to the on the Defendant was cited on, will be “seventy miles per hour for operators of any motor vehicle at all times on all rural freeways.”

In Hatcher, the officer used his radar to determine the Defendant’s speed exceeded 70 miles per hour. The trial court found that the officer’s radar was functioning properly on the day the Defendant was cited, and found that the evidence provided by the officer was credible as to the Defendant’s speed.

The Defendant argued that although she may have been over the speed limit, it was also necessary to show that her speed created an unsafe condition on the highway. She testified there were no other drivers on the highway the evening she was cited, and she was not operating her vehicle in a dangerous or reckless way despite her vehicle traveling faster than the posted speed limit.

PER SE SPEEDING VIOLATIONS

The Court in Hatcher ultimately felt her argument would not reverse her conviction. In their opinion, the Court held that speeding in Ohio is a “per se” violation. A “per se” violation means that this particular act is illegal regardless of the facts surrounding the act. An individual may not know they are breaking a law and can still be found guilty of a “per se” violation.

In Hatcher, the Court stated that speeding laws in Ohio are “per se” and knowledge of speeding, or reasonable operation of a vehicle while speeding are not defenses to a speeding ticket.

The Court stated that it didn’t matter that the Defendant operated her vehicle in a safe manner despite being over the speed limit. The Court stated that it only needed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was operating her car at a speed above the posed speed limit. State v. Hatcher, 2017-Ohio-7631

Despite the Court ruling that speeding is a “per se” violation, there are still other defenses to speeding and traffic citations that are available to you. It is important to contact an attorney who is knowledgeable about these possible defenses. If you have questions about your Columbus related traffic or criminal charges, talk to our defense attorneys at 614-361-2804. 

Authored by Anthony M. Iori, Riddell Law Associate

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