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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2011

    Default What are the Defenses to a LIDAR Ticket

    I've read quite a bit about this, and the general consensus seems to be that LIDAR tickets aren't even worth contesting, but I beg to differ. Let me explain my unique situation.

    I was recently stopped by Iowa State Patrol. I had just purchased the vehicle on that day, meaning I had no license plates. I've traveled this route for years and I knew the speed limit quickly changes to 65 from 70, and it's a speed trap I have seen several times.

    I see a fleet of cars (3 in front on right lane, 2 in front on left lane I was traveling in) abruptly hit their brakes, to the point it was unsafe. Everyone is now going between 50-55 when they were between 65-70 just before that. A few seconds later I see State Patrol parked on the side of a busy interstate, and I realize this is why.

    As my car is perpindicular to State Patrol (I'm traveling 52 at this point), he begins to follow me for about a minute. I see his flashing lights turn on and I was completely certain I was pulled over for not having a license plate. I politely articulated this to him when he asked if I knew why I was being pulled over. I instantly showed him the Title of the recently purchased vehicle and my Drivers License. The officer then proceeded to tell me I was stopped for driving 78 in a 65 when he clocked me (which I am unsure of the exact distance, but at least 100 yards, unless he thought I was going that speed when perpendicular to him) and made no mention of not having plates. I politely told him I was not going that speed and had been driving within the parameters of the speed limit. He did not believe me. I was given a ticket for $168 which I believe was the result of a mistake or an overzealous State Trooper. I reiterated to him I thought this was a mistake and made no mention of my plan to appear in court as I was on my way home.

    When I got home, I decided to gather all the information I could about LIDAR. At the time I was stopped I did not know this, but LIDAR is generally aimed at the license plate. I did not have a license plate at the time. Also, and I can't find any concrete information on this, which is why I'm posting here, it is very common under a LIDAR citation for the distance from when they clocked you to be there. It was not included on my ticket.

    I discovered that LIDAR's accuracy is weakened when there is no license plate present (it locks onto the most reflective surface of aimed target). The LIDAR beam proportionally widens with distance, meaning it may have locked onto the car with a license plate, either next to me, in front of me, or in back of me. There is no way it was my car. I've deserved some tickets in the past, but this time I do know for a fact, some sort of mistake was made.

    My theory on what happened, he had clocked a different car, saw I had no plates which diverted his attention to my car - stopped me, and decided to give me the ticket, although it was not my car that was speeding. Also, factor in this happened late in the month and he may have wanted to make quota. Yes, I am questioning the ethics of some law enforcement. If that offends you, please do not reply.

    I'm 27 but look younger than my age, he probably just thought I was another kid who wouldn't even bother with contesting the ticket.

    My concrete points will be to bring up how LIDAR's accuracy is diminished when no license plate is present, and the fact he did not include the distance I was clocked on the citation. From everything I can find - it is not required but typically standard with LIDAR. A smart cop doesn't want to leave any room for anything to be contested in my opinion.

    I plan to ask where LIDAR is most accurate. If he says something other than license plate to protect himself, it will look bad on his part. If he says license plate (which I'm expecting), I plan to point out how how there is greater probability a mistake was then made. I don't plan to include he made me a scapegoat, although that is what I really believe. I just plan to raise the most doubt I can and hope for the best.

    First question: Can I write the court a letter contesting the citation, opposed to appearing in court? It will be me vs a prosecutor representing the trooper. I'm worried the prosecutor will try and tie me up in legal semantics knowing I don't know the law as well as he does. It doesn't seem right that they get state-provided representation and civilians do not (especially when it's harder for us), but that's a different story for a different day.

    Second question: I plan to make a diagram showing exactly my positioning in relation to the other cars. Is this typically allowed?

    Third question: If I lose, can I appeal?

    I know this may seem fairly ridiculous, but I am in a difficult financial situation at the moment and I feel this ticket was either deliberately unjust or the result of a mistake.

    If anyone has actual experience with LIDAR defense, please let me know what you think of the points I have made. Informed replies are much appreciated.

  2. #2

    Default Re: LIDAR Defense.if There is One

    google this (How to beat a lidar speeding ticket) May have the info you need read entire page

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2010

    Default Re: LIDAR Defense.if There is One

    Your point about distance is probably the best point you have. Without knowing the exact distance of the vehicle to the SMD, it is impossible to calculate how big the beam of the laser is. Lets say he targeted you three miles away. Obviously, the LIDAR beam was big enough that it could have spread past your car and clocked another.

    Another good point you can bring up is without the distance, the prosecution cannot prove where you were when the violation happened. You could have been in an 80 MPH zone.

    Along with this, there are other arguments, such as light reflection through different mediums, and the testing and calibration of the device itself.

    I would say that it is essential to go to court rather than write a quick little note to the court. You don't have any of the evidence against you, so how do you know what he did and what he didn't do. Right now we have a whole bunch of hypotheticals so you need to go to court and challenge that evidence. After all, the greatest thing about this country is the right to face your accuser.
    "A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer." ~Robert Frost

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2011

    Default Re: LIDAR Defense.if There is One

    You seem to know about this. Is it typically standard to write the distance when using LIDAR? I have seen several tickets via reading this forum that do include that. My concern is...I don't have the exact distance. I know it was at least 100 yards away, my car didn't have a license plate, and the cars in front of me had already slowed down. By not knowing the exact distance, I'm worried that will be used against me. I already have planned to use the lack of distance being mentioned on the citation in my favor.

    At the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if it was preferred the distance was included - but not required. It seems like when it comes to speeding tickets, everything is skewed against you.

    Also, the ticket has a court date already written down. Do I need to mail it to inform them I will be appearing in court, or just show up? The reason I would prefer to write the court, is because going up against a prosecutor sounds very difficult, although I have a defense I plan to use. I don't know how to get the discovery process going either. I'm trying to find a lawyer in my area who handles this at a reasonable price but have not been able to do so thus far.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2011

    Default Re: LIDAR Defense.if There is One

    Was hoping for a few more replies.

    Forgot to mention this, because I did not know it was noteworthy until earlier.

    He used the LIDAR within the car and the windows were up. Some LIDAR manufacturers explicitly state that LIDAR must be used outside the vehicle, because light gets refracted through glass. I don't understand the complete logistics of the physics behind it, but this has to be stated for a reason.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    LA LA Land

    Default Re: LIDAR Defense.if There is One

    Quote Quoting lostintime
    View Post
    He used the LIDAR within the car and the windows were up.
    Well, he doesn't necessarily need to be outside his vehicle to operate Lidar! You did say he was perpendicular to the traffic lanes (which might mean "hand with Lidar gun out his driver's side window"). I guess that would still leave the possibility that his window was up, I would highly doubt it though!

    So do tell, how do you know that his window was up? Did he tell you that or did you actually see him while he was using it -with the window up- to measure your speed?

    You should keep in mind that there's a VERY good chance that the Iowa State Police may train and certify their officers in the use of Radar/Lidar before they send them out on traffic enforcement (at least the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy Annual Report may be a good indication of that). And if that holds true, one could safely assume that one of the first things they would teach them there would be to NOT use Lidar from behind glass...

    Of course if that's the best defense you can come up with, then by all means, run with it and see what happens. Personally, I wouldn't get my hopes up if I were you.
    I am right 97% of the time... Who cares about the other 4%!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2011

    Default Re: LIDAR Defense.if There is One

    His windows were up as my car crossed his, but I had already been "clocked" - the mistake had been made. LIDAR does not work when gauging speed directly perpendicular to the device. Meaning, it was either via the driver's side window or back driver's side window. His squad car was positioned in a way that he would have driven across the highway had he gone in a straight line. Could say he was "ready to attack". The distance was initially too great to know if his windows were up. As I got closer, they were up. It is possible that he put his windows up in that short timeframe from "clocking" me, until I was perpendicular to him. I still contend a mistake was made or this state trooper was overzealous. There were too many cars ahead of me for this to have been my car. He stopped me for no plates and used someone else's LIDAR reading, to lie. Pun not intended. Especially knowing how LIDAR is almost impossible to defend, it makes abuse of power much easier for them. I've read so many stories about Judges always siding with LIDAR, until LIDAR records a photo of your exact vehicle in the crosshairs - there will be room for error and it's unfortunate the legal system refuses (or makes it very difficult) to give unique situations such as mine any credibility. I'll be the first to admit I've deserved every ticket I have gotten in my life. Not in this case.

    I obviously cannot prove his windows were up. I can prove I did not have a license plate which greatly diminishes LIDAR's range/accuracy regardless of what many police forums may tell you. I've been reading all the LIDAR-device Operator's manuals I can find and they ALL recommend the device be pointed at the license plate. Across-the-board recommendation with LIDAR.

    The distance was not cited on my ticket. Usually included with LIDAR. Trying to find clarification on this for Iowa and still cannot.

    There is also something called "LIDAR sweep error" which occurs when the officer is trying to speed up the process of a "lock" on a reflective surface via moving the device. Can cause error up to 8mph either making your speed higher or lower. Police forums will tell you it only works in your favor "speed always registers lower". That is not true.

    I'm sure they are trained to not use the LIDAR behind the glass. I'm also sure overzealous law enforcement exists.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2011

    Default Re: LIDAR Defense.if There is One

    By the way, if I lose, I plan to appeal the maximum extent I can.

    From what I've read, a civilian going up against a prosecutor is very difficult, even when you think your claim is valid. My fear is getting tied up in legal semantics/expert questions. Considering I do know some about how a certain aspect of LIDAR works (given where it should be pointed for maximum accuracy), that opens questions up on cross that I may not be able to answer regarding other specifications of LIDAR. Of course, I am not a lawyer and I won't know the proper time to say "Objection!". I'm guessing prosecutors know how to exploit this well.

    I would prefer writing a letter first. I think my chances at dismissal are great that way. How do I request discovery on the State's end?

    Let's say he didn't include the distance in his notes (was not on my citation). That would be unheard of using LIDAR. I think I would have immediate grounds for dismissal without having to even step in court.

    Who should the letter be addressed to? The office of the District Attorney? Should it be Certified mail, etc?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2010

    Default Re: LIDAR Defense.if There is One

    Lidar is MOST effective when it is bounced off a highly reflective surface, such as a license plate, but any reflective surface like windshield glass, a chrome grille, or bumper will do. It only takes a small fraction of a second to get a 'good' reading. The beam does spread the farther out the target is. Something like 3 feet at 1000 or so. The trick is to be able to STEADILY target and hit a moving object at a great distance with a hand held device much like a pistol. A skill easily described but equally difficult to master.

    I beat a LIDAR ticket in Washington. I believe I was able to cast just enough doubt on the written testimony of the trooper to sway the judge. Three lanes of freeway with multiple cars in each lane, going around a slight curve, and a shallow down hill. He said to another victim that he personally had a problem with distances in excess of 1000 feet (mine was at ~906').

    At my hearing there was neither prosecutor or trooper. The judge asked me how I wanted to proceed. I stated that I did not commit the infraction. The judge asked me to continue. I stated that the officer's sworn affidavit contained no information on traffic conditions, weather, or the exact location of the trooper when he observed me. I also stated that it was unlikely that the trooper was able to see around a curve, over a small rise, and through all the other traffic between my car and his position in the center median. The judge said he did not believe that my speedometer or cruise control setting was accurate but the lack of detail in the trooper's sworn affidavit was enough to sway his decision to my favor.

    You might consider posting up your infraction notice. If you decide to contest the infraction you should be able to ask for discovery materials from the prosecutor.

    From your description in the original post you were the "lowest hanging fruit" and the unlucky one who was ticketed. If the trooper did not state at what distance you were tagged and his exact location when he saw you then you might have a pretty fair chance of defending yourself and beating the preponderance of evidence standard.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2010

    Default Re: LIDAR Defense.if There is One

    You have an interesting point that I haven't seen brought up before.

    I do believe Iowa is a state where the officer needs to show up to trial to testify. I think you have various ways of going about this.

    If you can catch him slipping up in his statement, you can severely injure his credibility. So, ask him questions about where he shot on your car. Unless he really has good notes, he's going to say something like, "Where I was trained to: the license plate." So now you need to get him to agree that he shot your car's license plate. Ask him a question, "So you shot my license plate?" "Correct." "Are you sure?" "Yes. It's how I was trained." Drive that point home, even if the prosecution has to object to the question being asked and answered. Now that he's agreed to shooting your license plate in order to attain the speed, prove to the court that you had no license plate at the time.

    Introduce evidence that proves that you had no license plate on your car at the time because you just purchased it. A title and date will do, but can be backed up by one of those "dealer - plate exemption" stickers and a photo or two. Make a statement for the court and the officer, "Your honor, I introduce defense exhibit A which proves that a license plate did not exist on the vehicle I was operating at the time of violation."

    Now if you really want to get cocky, you can challenge the overzealous officer's testimony. You can point out to the court that this officer just committed perjury by lying in open court. You can ask that all evidence by a witness who has lied to the court be stricken from evidence and move for dismissal due to lack of foundation, or you can go another route:

    Ask the officer if he remembers that you didn't have a license plate. At this point, he's gonna be stumbling on his words and changing his answers faster than a politician on election day. He'll probably say, "Oh, yeah. I remember that." Now you need to prove that the lack of license plate affects the accuracy of LIDAR.

    Ask him if if the lack of a license plate severely reduces LIDAR's accuracy. If he says "no," then go to town on how the officer wasn't trained properly and doesn't know the device he is using. Introduce evidence from 2 or 3 different LIDAR manuals stating that the lack of a license plate has a profound effect. Then, Move to dismiss. Easier said than done, but take your time and you will find the judge being very helpful in your defense.

    If the court won't accept those manuals, then ask the court for an ability to subpoena a LIDAR expert. Annoying, but you need to get that point across.

    If this fails, you can move on with a distance argument. Ask the officer at what distance he clocked you at. Do a quick calculation to see if the beam was bigger or smaller than your car. Measure the dimensions of your car beforehand and prove to the court that the beam was bigger than your car. You may find that the beam is 8 or 9 feet wide and that the court will accept that the LIDAR device caught another car.

    Now, when all that is said and done, push for dismissal as much as you can. If something seems funny, move to dismiss and just explain your gut feeling.

    You may find that you won't need to do all this but this is just me taking your ideas and running with them.

    It's really hard to formulate a defense without seeing any evidence. So, maybe you're screwed, maybe you're not. But you might as well go down with a fight.

    Good luck.
    "A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer." ~Robert Frost

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