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Speeding Ticket Thrown Out: Officer Visually Observing Speeding Vehicle is Not Enough

SPEEDING TICKET THROWN OUT: RADAR EVIDENCE FAULTY & VISUAL OBSERVATION OF SPEED NOT ENOUGH TO CONVICT

 The Ohio Court of Appeals recently overturned a conviction for speeding because the officer did not correctly use the radar device when measuring the speed limit of the Defendant’s car.

In N. Kingsville v. Carter, 2021-Ohio-242, the officer observed Defendant traveling faster than the posted speed limit and guessed that the vehicle was traveling 48mph in a 35 mph zone. The officer asked another officer to use a hand held radar device to measure the vehicle’s speed and the radar indicated the vehicle was traveling 49mph. Defendant was stopped by the officer and issued a speeding ticket.

At trial, the officer testified that he visually estimated the vehicle was speeding and observed the other officer use the radar to confirm Defendant was traveling faster than the posted speed limit. The officer who used the radar device did not testify at trial. The judge found Defendant guilty, and Defendant appealed her conviction.

OFFICER WHO OPERATED THE RADAR FAILED TO TESTIFY 

The Ohio Court of Appeals has stated in prior cases that the prosecutor must establish that an officer is qualified to operate the radar device when using it to measure the speed of vehicles on the road. State v. Sferra, 2016-Ohio-7161. In the Carter case, the officer testified that he has experience with speeding violations, but the Court of Appeals noted the officer who operated the radar device did not testify at trial.

The Court of Appeals threw out the conviction for speeding and stated, “we cannot say that operator error could not have occurred, which is a rationale for requiring evidence of the qualifications of the operator. The record is devoid of evidence to demonstrate qualifications that show [the officer using the device’s] prior use of the radar or proper training on its use and operation.”

VISUAL OBSERVATION OF SPEEDING NOT ENOUGH

In its argument, the state argued that even if the evidence from the radar device was thrown out, the speeding conviction should still be upheld because the officer visually observed Defendant speeding, and has years of experience as an officer and training to identify drivers traveling faster than the posted speed limit.

Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.091(C)(1) stated that no person shall be convicted of a speeding violation based on a peace officer’s unaided visual estimation of the speed of a motor vehicle. The Court of Appeals held the conviction could not be supported based on the officer’s visual estimate of speeding.

This ruling from the Court of Appeals highlights how important it is to carefully review every case. Contacting an attorney who is knowledgeable about all possible defenses available, including reviewing the officer’s statement of qualifications when issuing a speeding ticket, can increase your chances at having a criminal or traffic charge reduced or dismissed. If you have questions about your Columbus  traffic charges, talk to our defense attorneys at 614-361-2804.

Written by Anthony Iori, Riddell Law Associate