My question involves a speeding ticket from the State of: Virginia
Here’s my recent experience in a Virginia town. I was clocked about 8:30pm via radar going 50 in a 35. I was cited for violation VA law 46.2-875 (exceeding max speed limit of 35 in a town). I was on a dark road and the patrol lights went on about 100 yards ahead of me. I already had the Nolo “Beat Your Ticket” book. Following its advice I requested the officer’s notes and radar operator manual from the police. Police called back saying that in Virginia that such requests are made through the court. So I submitted a “subpoena duces tecum” requesting the same items which the court denied. At trial while waiting to be called I realized that the officer had switched my first and middle names. When called I made motions to dismiss for incorrect name and not getting the requested items. The judged “amended” the citation with my correct name and said that the officer’s notes and radar manual are not discoverable items. After the officer testified I asked to see the speedometer calibration and radar calibration certificates which the officer produced.
The subsequent cross examination went like this:
Me: Have you been trained in radar?
Me: Would you please produce a training certificate?
Officer: I don’t have to. (This starts to throw me for a loop. The judge is silent.)
Me: What is the width of the radar beam?
Officer: I don’t know. I don’t have to know that.
Me: What is the maximum distance of the of the radar beam?
Officer: I don’t need to know that.
Me: What is the radar margin of error?
Officer: I don’t know.
Me: Please describe cosine error.
Officer correctly describes the error.
Me: Please describe beam reflectance error.
Officer: I don’t know what that is.
Me to the judge: I make a motion to strike the radar evidence as the witness has shown himself incompetent in the use of radar.
Me: Is there not an airport adjacent to the citation location? (There was and I tried this per the suggestion of Nolo’s “Beat Your Ticket”.)
Officer: Yes, but the runway lights were off. (I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask the judge to not allow the officer to add additional testimony.)
Me: Can you state with certainty that no planes were flying through the radar beam when you clocked me?
Me: I rest my case. I’ve shown reasonable doubt that my speed wasn’t clocked correctly.
Judge: IMHO you haven’t demonstrated reasonable doubt. Generally the only radar defenses that work are scientific in nature. Guilty.
I’ve since contacted the town police and they’ve been killing me with kindness regarding the radar the questions I’ve had including providing the radar operator manual and telling me where to get the radar training documentation.
Anyway, I hope this Virginia experience helps any other Virginians hoping to dispute their citations. I chose not to investigate whether or not there was an out of date engineering survey for the speed limit since I believe that MUTCD engineering survey requirements are only for roads not covered by state statute.
I believe there is case law Honeycutt vs Kentucky that establishes that the officer doesn't need to know the science behind radar, but in this case the officer didn't even need to know the dimensions of the radar beam. It doesn't seem like a fair trial to not at least be able to say how far in general the beam goes and how wide it is.
Does anyone know where the Virginia list of discoverable traffic infraction items can be found?
Any advice regarding how I might have improved my chances is welcome.
In Virginia all traffic infractions can be retried in Circuit court. I have until December 23 to request retrial. I live in the county seat so I can do additional research in the law library nearby. Any advice on a Circuit Court retrial is also welcome. I think I’d at least have the presence of mind to object when the officer adds extra details and maybe a jury might not be as hardnosed as the judge regarding reasonable doubt. Thanks in advance.