WHEN SPEEDING TICKET IS BASED UPON MOVING RADAR, PROSECUTION BEARS A GREATER BURDEN TO SHOW RADAR UNIT WORKING PROPERLY THAN IT WOULD WITH STATIONARY RADAR

February 22, 2011 by Tilem & Associates

At Tilem & Associates, our attorneys are familiar with the law and the science behind traffic cases such as speeding and DWI. You’ve been issued speeding ticket in Greenburgh, New York (or any other jurisdiction within New York State) and you appear for your court ordered “conference” with the prosecutor at which time the prosecutor may or may not offer to reduce the charge in return for you pleading guilty to the reduced charge and waiving your right to trial.

In the event you cannot reach an amicable plea bargain with the prosecutor, your case will be scheduled for trial. At trial, the officer will generally testify that he first made a visual estimate of your speed and then verified that estimate with either a radar or laser unit. In People v. Magri (1958), the New York Court of Appeals acknowledged the general reliability of radar speed detection thus making it unnecessary for the prosecution to present expert testimony at speeding ticket trials involving radar.

In People v. Knight, 72 N.Y.2d 481 (1988), the New York Court of Appeals acknowledged the general reliability of moving radar as well. Whether the case involves stationary or moving radar, the prosecution still must prove that the particular radar unit was working properly at the time it measured defendant’s speed and that the officer was properly trained and used the unit properly.

However, because the potential for error is greater with moving radar than with stationary radar, the Court of Appeals also held in People v. Knight that when the prosecution is premised upon moving radar as opposed to stationary radar, “the prosecution will bear a greater burden of proof in demonstrating the accuracy of the particular radar unit involved.” Id at 487.

This can make a difference where the speed is based upon moving radar because most officers are not trained to visually estimate the speed of a vehicle while the officer is in a moving vehicle. Therefore, if you were able to convince the court to exclude the moving radar evidence, the officer might not be able to substantiate the charge based solely upon his visual estimate as he could if he made the visual estimate while stationary (as he was trained).
Is this a likely scenario? Probably not as most courts admit radar and laser testimony on the flimsiest of foundational evidence. Nevertheless, an attack on the legality of the vehicle stop can be critical where that stop leads to an arrest on a more serious charge such as DWI, Aggravated Unlicensed Operator, weapons possession or drug possession. If the basis of the stop is found to be illegal (unconstitutional), it may result in the suppression of all evidence derived from the stop.


For more information about speeding tickets or other traffic offenses (including DWI and Aggravated Unlicensed Operator) in New York, feel free to contact us toll free at 1-877-DR-SUMMONS (1-877-377-8666).

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