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RADAR & LIDAR Instruments in Speeding Ticket Cases

In Virginia, one of the most common ways law enforcement catches those speeding is through the use of RADAR and LIDAR instruments. Below, a Virginia speeding ticket lawyer discusses these instruments, common issues with there use, and potential defenses. For more information on the steps you can take to contest your speeding ticket, call and schedule a consultation today.

Accuracy of RADAR Instruments

If used properly, the approved speed reading devices that are used by Virginia law enforcement officers are very accurate. Under the Virginia Code, there are four different methods of speed determination. Three of these four approved methods involve speed detection instruments. The common speed detection instruments in the Commonwealth of Virginia are LiDAR, certain laser-driven technology, and RADAR, which is the type of technology commonly used by the law enforcement officials in both stationary and moving modes.

Potential Issues With RADAR Instruments

Depending on the type of technology used by the law enforcement officers, there are a variety of technical defenses that may be present. By Virginia statute, the speed detection technique instruments are required to be calibrated every six months. The officer or the trooper must produce a valid certificate of analysis for the calibration of such equipment. In addition, the officer must be trained on how to use this technology effectively and how to use it properly. The speed detection equipment must be on the approved list, which is addressed in the Virginia administrative code.

If all of these technical aspects are met, then the defense attorney will have to see whether or not the equipment was used within the proper intentions of the equipment. This includes whether LiDAR was used properly on one vehicle, whether RADAR was used properly, and whether there was any environmental or external factors that could influence the efficiency of the speed detection technology.

Typically, there are very few valid external or environmental influences that interfere with this technology and things such as shadowing or RADAR frequency issues are often overblown. However, there are certain circumstances that can provide valid defenses and, when reviewed based on the facts and circumstances of each individual case, determine if you have a technical defense for the speed you are charged.

Operator Error In The Use of RADAR Guns

Because the vast majority of speeding tickets are prepaid and do not go to trial, it is truly unknown whether operator error is a major problem in the determination of speeding tickets or reckless driving violations. However, there is certainly the possibility of operator error, given the sensitivity and intricacy of the LiDAR and RADAR speed detection equipment.

The most common instances that can involve operator error specifically involve LiDAR equipment, because LiDAR equipment requires the aiming component to be used properly and it can be more readily and accidentally influenced by human errors. Errors such as “sweep errors” can add or subtract mph from a moving vehicle without much effort at all. However, generally law enforcement officers are well trained to make use of this equipment and the officers that regularly enforce these laws by themselves can use the equipment accurately and fairly.

Errors Using LiDAR

LiDAR, which is laser RADAR, is a common technology used in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Virginia State Police and local law enforcement agencies, including local town police departments and the Washington Metro Area Airport Authority Police (MWAA) all use this technology to combat speeding.

Passersby commonly see LiDAR as an officer employs what looks like a small gun or gun sight out of the side of their window. That small gun is actually the LiDAR equipment and it is intended to pick out one vehicle at a time—rather than RADAR, which has a wider net. The purpose of a LiDAR is to give an accurate determination of one vehicle’s speed without external influences. LiDAR has a theoretical range much larger than that of RADAR.

LiDAR does have the possibility of certain errors, including environmental errors such as issues with rain, fog, or snow and errors involving what are known as “sweep errors,” which is when the LIDAR trigger is pressed and the actual unit itself is improperly moved. While LIDAR can be more accurate; it does require a more precise set of implementation instructions. If these instructions are performed in any improper order, it can readily create an inaccurate reading.

What State Needs to Prove to Show Speed Reading Instruments Correct

There are certain statutes that the Commonwealth relies on in a speeding case. Just like any other criminal prosecution, the Commonwealth must prove the elements of the speeding or reckless driving offense beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the Commonwealth does have certain presumptions and inferences in the proper use of the speed detection equipment.

For the use of speed detection devices, Virginia Code Section 46.2–882 governs the admissibility of speed detection devices. The section outlines what evidence must be presented to lay the proper foundation for the equipment’s accuracy and what inferences maybe made by the court as a result of the foundation. In addition to Section 46.2–882, there are a variety of Virginia administrative codes that govern the specific types of equipment, model numbers, and necessary training that the officers must undergo to certify the speed detection.

Common Myths About Speed Reading Instruments

There are many common myths about RADAR, LIDAR, and pacing in the determination of the speed for speed detection in reckless driving by speed cases in Virginia.

The most common myth is that the officer is required to show the alleged speeder the RADAR or LIDAR reading. There is nowhere in the code that requires the officer to show the results of the speed detection equipment to a driver. In fact, there is actually case law that says that the officer is not required to show the person the RADAR gun or show them the reading.

Other common myths are that the officers are inflating deflating speeds or that the officers are ticketing more frequently at the end of the month because of a “quota system.” Officers in the Commonwealth of Virginia are not given benefits for certain ticketing standards—that has been found in this jurisdiction to be unconstitutional. It is certainly a popular myth, and there is a lot of suspicion that this happens, but in my experience as an attorney I have not seen much evidence of this practice. I have seen that it is more common for officers to write tickets in certain areas after they have received a high number of complaints about dangerous speeding in certain areas, but I have not heard of any quota system being anything other than that.

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