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Can a Police Officer Visually Estimate the Speed of Your Car?

by Seth Azria on 4/28/2019

Prompted by a supporting deposition that stated the officer made a visual speed estimate that was verified by radar, some drivers question the permissibility of such visual estimates. 

Can you be convicted of speeding by evidence from a police officer’s visual estimate of your speed without a mechanical device?

Officers May Visually Estimate Speed 

Yes, the officer may visually estimate your speed and the judge may rely on the officer’s opinion of your speed to support a conviction. Of course, the officer has to be properly trained in such independent visual estimation, have experience in doing so, and have an acceptable level of accuracy.

Radar May Also Establish Speed

The prosecution may also use the evidence of speed from the radar device.  For decades, radar devices have been accepted by courts as evidence of speed, provided they are properly used and tested within a reasonable time before that use.

Each basis, visual estimate or mechanical measurement, independently, may support a conviction. So when there is, as in most cases, a combination of a visual estimate and radar device evidence, if one type of evidence fails, for example because the radar wasn’t tested properly, the court may still convict based on the other method.

Pacing or Driving Behind You is Also Permitted 

In addition to the radar and the visual estimate, the officer may also establish your speed with the patrol car’s speedometer by “pacing” your vehicle. That is, maintaining a fixed distance between your car and the patrol car.

Some drivers mention that the officer followed behind them and didn’t pull them over right away. Rather than a reason to attack the ticket, the officer is likely pacing the vehicle to improve the quality of their testimony should there be a trial.  

These different and redundant methods for proving a speeding charge makes trials difficult to win for drivers. While your case may likely lose at trial, it does not mean we are unable to help you. Please call us for free consultation about how we can help you resolve your ticket.

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