Speeding Tickets and the 500ft. Visibility Requirement in Georgia - What Does It Really Mean?

Is there anything that makes the pit of your stomach sink more than the feeling you get when you drive past a police officer gunning you down with his radar?

The answer is yes, the feeling you get when you see those flashing blue lights in your rear-view mirror...

Here is a law relating to speeding tickets that few people (including lawyers and judges) fully understand: the Visibility to Approaching Motorist Requirement for police officers using radar or a laser to catch speeders.

O.C.G.A. § 40-14-7 requires that no stationary speed detection device be used by county, municipal, college or university law enforcement where the vehicle using the speed detection device is obstructed from the view of approaching motorists or is not otherwise visible for a distance of at least 500 feet.

Presumably to prevent police officers from setting up speed traps, this Georgia statute requires that police vehicles (excluding Georgia State Patrol) be visible to approaching drivers at a distance of 500 feet, a distance that is about 33 yards less than two football fields put together.  Presenting evidence that the police vehicle was not visible from 500 feet (i.e. being located behind an overpass, trees or even around a sharp corner) can get the radar evidence thrown out in court. 

But what about at night?  Even a police vehicle that could have been seen within 500 feet during the day might not be visible at night.  The Georgia statute makes no exception for night hours.  Should courts refuse to admit evidence collected from radars used at night? 

The answer is it depends.  Some courts buy this nighttime argument and some don't.  Some view this as an implied requirement that police officers have their headlights turned on when catching speeders, making them visible to motorists 500 feet away at night.  

Some Georgia legislators have recognized all the consequences of this law and have filed a bill to do away with this entire visibility requirement.  So no one really knows how much longer it will be around.  But until the bill passes, some courts have held that police officers must have their lights on at night when running radar for speeders.

R. Michael Coker is an attorney with the Law Offices of R. Michael Coker, LLC and is admitted to practice law in all State and Superior Courts in the State of Georgia, the Georgia Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.  He can be reached by phone at (678) 935-6000 or by email at coker@coker-law.com.
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