Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Speed Traps" - One Common Type and Why It's Illegal

Anyone who has ever made the drive from Atlanta to Athens knows about the police officers on Georgia Highway 316.  It was not uncommon when I was in college for friends of mine to get pulled over two, three or even four times a year when traveling to and from visiting their families back home in Atlanta. 

I could always expect one or two police cruisers to be sitting at one point - right over a hill after a speed limit drop.  Sometimes, I would see a line of young college students pulled over on the side of the road.

Let’s take a look at one of Georgia’s traffic laws.  O.C.G.A. § 40-14-9 reads:

Evidence obtained by county or municipal law enforcement officers in using speed detection devices within 300 feet of a reduction of a speed limit inside an incorporated municipality or within 600 feet of a reduction of a speed limit outside an incorporated municipality or consolidated city-county government shall be inadmissible in the prosecution of a violation of any municipal ordinance, county ordinance, or state law regulating speed…

Sounds confusing right?  It really isn’t when you break it down.  

The law says that when in a city, radar or laser speed evidence cannot be used against you in court from a device within 300 feet of the point where the speed limit is reduced - the length of a football field.  When not in a city or a mixed city-county government, the length requirement increases to 600 feet or two football fields.

In other words, police officers are not allowed to set up “speed traps” that use radar right after the speed limit drops.  If they do, the radar evidence is inadmissible in court.  In many speeding cases, the radar evidence is the only evidence the prosecutor and officer have against the driver.  Without any other supporting evidence, the court might not have enough evidence to find the driver guilty of speeding.  One must understand, however, that this law only applies to county or city police officers, not a college campus officer, the Georgia Highway patrol or any other type of police officer. 

Of course, winning one of these speeding cases requires actually proving to the court that the radar was collected within the zone forbidden by the statute.  Even with photos and measurements of the roadway, you will probably need some testimony from the officer admitting his or her location – often a hard task.

Nevertheless, if all the Athens college students caught in that speed trap had been armed with this knowledge, maybe they could have banded together to put an end to that speed trap.  Remember to always drive safely and within the speed limit, but if you are ever caught in one of these speed traps, contact a good traffic lawyer who can argue your rights in court.

1 comment:

  1. The only thing you forgot to mention is the device can't be within 300/600 ft. They can be beyond 300/600 ft and still get you for speeding, legally, even if YOU are within the 300/600 ft. It is only a limitation on the location of the device. In your Athens example, I'm sure the officers were outside the 300/600 ft requirement.