Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to answer your interesting
Having spent more than 20 years in the field of law enforcement
myself, I am quite familiar with different methods of successfully
defending ones self against a traffic ticket and probably even more
familiar with why defendants are found guilty as charged. Please
understand up front that in this capacity, I am an impartial,
professional researcher, not a rogue cop. I believe that sharing this
information with you does not comprise my integrity in the least.
Actually it is quite the opposite. You are innocent until proven
guilty and that is the ethical position that I am taking, making no
judgments of my own with regard to your actions. Having explained
that, for simplicity sake, let me address each part of your question
What type of radar do planes use to track the speed of vehicles? How
reliable is it?
In all the years I have spent in law enforcement I have never known of
an agency using radar technology of any kind from an airborne craft as
a reliable means of determining the speed of a violators vehicle. The
reason for this is simple, in order to be considered accurate, a radar
beam must be as straight as possible. The greater the angle the less
accurate the reading becomes. That is to say, in order to get an
optimum reading, the beam must shoot in roughly the same direction
that the vehicle is traveling. A radar beam from an airplane 1500 feet
in the air would be at such a great angle as to render the reading
inadmissible in court.
How many people contest these violations cited by airplane paced
tracking? How successful are they in 'beating' these violations?
This is difficult, if not impossible to estimate. Since some agencies
use aircraft and some do not, and some law enforcement agencies often
track for other agency ground vehicles, the total number of tickets
issued using this method would be next to impossible to determine. The
second part of this question is equally difficult to answer because,
as you will see in a moment, contesting the ticket in court is not the
only means of beating it.
How much distance does the airplane pace you for?
Generally speaking, officers in an aircraft determine the ground speed
of a vehicle by time stamping a target vehicle between two known
points of measurement. There are several methods of doing this (such
as VASCAR; an acronym for Visual Average Speed Computer & Recorder,
which is not a radar at all, but a time stamping computer) but to keep
it simple Ill explain the most common the stopwatch. In Florida,
for example, you will often see a white line across the interstate
highway at quarter-mile, half-mile and one-mile intervals. Using the
one-mile measurement on a stretch of highway where the speed limit is
60mph as an example then, the occupants of the plane would assume that
a car is speeding if he passes the first mark at 0 seconds and
reaches the second mark in under 60 seconds.
How does wind speed and location of the plane have a effect on how
they measure if/when I passed their distance markers? i.e. the plane
would have to fly directly overhead at the same 'ground' speed to
actually know when to start the timer to measure the time it took for
me to drive from one spot to end point. How much of an effect would
this be on measuring the correct mph?
The air speed of the aircraft (or even an opposing head wind) would
have very little impact on the accuracy of a visual time stamp. As for
how accurate the time stamp would be if the plane is not directly
overhead, you have a point, but it is easily countered in court. If
the occupants of the plane were trying to ticket you for driving 5 or
10 miles over the speed limit the position of the plane relative to
the moving vehicle below could very well bring into question whether
or not the target vehicle was speeding at all. If the plane was
behind the vehicle it could be argued that the angle suggested to
the occupants that the vehicle reached mark #1 before it actually did.
But by traveling at 93 mph in a 65 mph zone, the difference in such
visual inaccuracies would be minimal, unless of course your defense is
going to be I was speeding but I wasnt traveling as fast as they say
I was traveling.
The portion of the highway is full of trees, traffic, vegetation and
winding roads. a combination of these could obstruct the plane's view.
How can I find out what kind of effect this has on their radar
As I mentioned earlier, since it is highly unlikely that a radar was
used to judge your speed, the relative obstacles could only affect the
outcome of the trial if you can establish a doubt that the aircraft
could have maintained uninterrupted visual contact with your vehicle
long enough to make certain that yours was the same vehicle at mark #1
that was seen passing mark #2. A tunnel, heavy overgrowth, or other
vehicles similar to yours in close proximity would be a reasonable
defense. Additionally, it may also be a viable defense if the aircraft
called ahead to a ground unit with your vehicle description but lost
visual contact with your vehicle before the ground unit pulled you
over. You may be able to raise the possibility that a second vehicle
matching your vehicles description was in the area at the time, or
that no one can testify that you didnt come onto the interstate from
an on-ramp somewhere in the stretch of highway between mark #2 and the
time that the ground unit pulled you over (suggesting that you were
simply in the wrong place at the wrong time).
How do I find environmental or safety studies that will show what a
safe speed on that road is?
Again, this will be hard to determine. The volume of traffic, the
condition of the highway, the weather conditions, all of which are
constantly changing, add to the possibility that it may not be safe to
travel at the speed that is actually posted. Arguing that the
conditions were so safe at the time that it is justifiable to travel
at 93 mph where 65 mph is the legal limit may not be the wisest
position to take, however, as this would be seen as an outright
admission of guilt.
What is the best way to proceed to contest this citation? Should I
hire a lawyer?
Google Answers policy prohibits me from offering legal advice but let
me say this, if you insist that all the officers involved in your case
be present at your hearing, the ground officer and all of the
occupants of the aircraft will receive a subpoena and be required to
attend. The likelihood that all of them will be available at the same
time to testify against you is pretty slim. Most cases of this nature
are a gamble that the violator will simply pay his fine and go about
his business. If you demand a trial you may find that the court would
rather drop the matter over this one ticket than haul people in off
their jobs to come to court. Patience is the key here. You can try and
wait them out and take a chance that everyone will show up (in which
case the court may impose a greater fine) or you can bank on the
possibility that the charges will be dropped (nol pros). Another way
to beat the ticket is to prove the officer wrong or raise a doubt as
to his ability to judge your speed. Some of the links I have provided
discuss this in detail. As for a lawyer, if you feel uncomfortable or
have legal questions, you should certainly seek legal advice. On a
side note. if you choose not to pay the fine YOU MUST APPEAR IN COURT
ON THE DATE YOU HAVE BEEN SUMMONED! Your failuer to do so may result
in a suspension of your license and/or a bench warrant for your
Also, on my citation, it has me summoned to appear in a municipal
court about 200 miles from my residence. Can I get this moved to a
court closer to where I live and how to do this?
This is called a change of venue and it is highly unlikely that you
will be granted one. This is usually reserved for cases where a
defendant does not feel that he can receive a fair trial in the
jurisdiction where the alleged offense took place, and not for the
convenience of the defendant alone.
I hope you find that that my research exceeds your expectations. If
you have any questions about my research please post a clarification
request prior to rating the answer. Otherwise, I welcome your rating
and your final comments and I look forward to working with you again
in the near future.
Fighting a Speeding Ticket - VISUAL ESTIMATE, AIRPLANE RADAR AND
Ticket Fighting Information
How To Beat A Speeding Ticket
Beat That Speeding Ticket
Fight Your Traffic Ticket in Court
How To Beat A Speeding Ticket
Speeding Ticket Beat Your Ticket
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