Radar Enforcement in Pennsylvania: Will a New Law Lead to Increased Speeding Tickets?
The Senate of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania approved last month a bill to allow local police departments to use radar in speed traps. Senate Bill 607 passed by a 49-1 vote on June 25, signaling almost unanimous support for the measure. Now the bill heads to the House of Representatives, where it is also likely to succeed. It seems that in a few months, Pennsylvania will no longer be the only state in the country to prohibit local police departments from using speed radar. The question is: will Senate Bill 607 increase road safety, or is it just a way to fill the coffers of municipal governments with revenue from additional speeding tickets?
At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we have successfully defended against traffic tickets supported by radar evidence, as well as traffic cases from local police departments, which usually are supported by the testimony of the officer who issued the citation. In both scenarios, we have been able to effectively dismantle the case against our clients and help them avoid the consequences of a Pennsylvania speeding ticket. If you’ve been charged with speeding, call us today at (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation.
Why Did Pennsylvania Wait So Long to Give Speed Radars to Local Cops?
Speed radar isn’t exactly new technology. First used by the military during World War II to track the speed of landing planes, radar guns were in the hands of police departments in Connecticut and New York by the late Forties. Since then, millions of traffic tickets have been issued by radar wielding police officers. While Pennsylvania’s State Police have long used speed radars, concerns about inconsistent training and policies have kept the legislature from expanding their use to local police departments.
Operating a speed radar is not exactly easy. The devices have a limited range, and their signal is subject to dispersion, which makes it hard for an untrained users on busy roads to determine which vehicle’s speed is being reported. Furthermore, roadside operators must understand the principle of triangulation, because the speed detected by a radar placed above or to the side of the road is never the actual speed of the targeted vehicle. This means that the police need to estimate the car’s speed based on the radar gun’s reading.
A good defense lawyer can easily defeat a traffic ticket case supported by radar evidence collected by a poorly trained officer. Under cross examination, the officer may admit to not understanding the radar gun’s limitations, and the need to interpret the speed reading. For these reasons, the government of Pennsylvania thought it wise to focus on training and equipping its state police with radars, and letting the rest give out speeding tickets the old fashioned way.
Don’t Expect a Huge Increase in Speeding Tickets
Should Senate Bill 607 become law, any police officer will need to undergo training before they can use a speed gun, and then repeat the training again every three years. One common aspect of speed gun training is about estimating speeds in favor of the driver. For example, if an officer estimates a vehicle’s actual speed to be between 33 and 37 mph, the officer should assume the vehicle is travelling at 33mph.
Furthermore, the bill clarifies that a conviction based on radar evidence can only occur if:
- The recorded speed is 10 or more mph over the speed limit on a highway
- The recorded speed is 6 or more on an interstate or freeway with a posted speed limit of 70 mph
- The exception is work or school zones, where any excess of speed may result in a conviction
Motorists will have fair warning when entering a community that uses radards, because the bill mandates the posting of “Radar Enforced” under speed limit signs in places where the local police choose to equip their speed traps with radars. The bill also removes some of the financial incentives for local governments to overuse speed traps, because they are only allowed to keep the equivalent of 20% of their budget’s worth of speeding fines. The rest must be transferred to a state run fund.
If House Bill 607 becomes law, the number of speeding tickets given out in Pennsylvania could increase to some extent–but it is unlikely to be a huge increase. At worst, Pennsylvania drivers will be at the same risk of getting a ticket as in other states with no limits on radar use.
When you get a speeding ticket, a lawyer may be able to reduce your fines or beat the charges. The Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyers of Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC stand ready to assist you today. Call us now at (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation about your case.