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Speeding Conviction Overturned Where Court Failed to Take Proper Judicial Notice of Accuracy of Laser

When it comes to the reliability of laser or other speed devices, the court does not necessarily have to hear expert testimony in every case.  Rather, as a kind of shortcut, Ohio courts are allowed to take “judicial notice” of a specific laser or radar device’s scientific reliability if it has been proven before in a prior case.

We have discussed the concept of judicial notice in previous posts: 

Speeding Conviction Vacated for Failure to Introduce Evidence of Scientific Reliability of Laser Gun

Is Expert Testimony Necessary to Prove Reliability of Moving Radar or Laser Speed Devices in Ohio?

Another recent Ohio appellate case has reiterated the need to make sure that when a court does take judicial notice, it must do so properly.  If the court doesn’t do it correctly, a speeding conviction could be reversed.  That is what happened in this case – State v. Coates, 2014-Ohio-3875.

Defendant Clocked Going 40 mph in a 20 mph Zone with LTI UltraLyte Laser

In this case, around 8:00 am, the defendant was driving on a local road.  An officer was running traffic near a local high school school zone.  

According to the officer, he activated his LTI UltraLyte laser device and clocked the defendant traveling at 40 mph in a 20 mph zone.   He was cited with speeding.  

He entered a not guilty plea and the case went to trial where the driver was found guilty.  

On appeal, the defendant argued that the state should have been required to put on an expert testimony as to the accuracy of the LTI UltraLyte device.  

Instead, the court took judicial notice of the device’s accuracy.  A court may take judicial notice of the scientific reliability of a laser device.  However, there are only three ways this can be done:

(1) by a reported municipal court decision;

(2) by a reported or unreported case from the appellate court; or

(3) by the previous consideration of expert testimony about a specific device where the trial court notes it on the record.” Cincinnati v. Levine, 158 Ohio App.3d 657, 2004-Ohio-5992.

Here, the court did not take notice of a reported municipal decision or cite to any previous consideration of expert testimony regarding the LTI UltraLyte Laser.

Rather the court cited to another appellate court decision that does not address the reliability of the LTI UltraLyte Laser.  The case the trial court cited dealt only with radar devices which operated on the Doppler principle – which the LTI laster did not.

Because the court erred in taking judicial notice of the LTI UltraLyte Laser device, the conviction was reversed.