Ohio Supreme Court: Officers can visually estimate speed

May 20, 2010
215
Hamilton, Ohio
This is interesting, I just learned of the courts decision a yesterday. I don't know if any other states allow officers to visually estimate speed and write based on it?


Justices: Officer's eyes can be judge of speed


State court’s ruling likely won’t change use of radar, some say


Thursday, June 3, 2010 02:57 AM


By James Nash


THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH


THE HOT ISSUE


* Should police be able to issue tickets based only on a visual estimation of a driver's speed?


Drivers beware: Police now have a new low-tech weapon to catch speeders - their eyes.


The Ohio Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a trained officer's visual judgment is enough to cite a driver for speeding.


In a 5-1 ruling, the court said police don't need radar or laser evidence to confirm what they judge with their own eyes.


Some drivers called the court's decision puzzling.


"At a time when more and more police work seems to be based on science - such as DNA testing - we seem to have gone a step backward," said Laura Potts, 41, of Clintonville.


But state officials said they don't expect that officers will put away their radar guns and start winging it.


The court upheld a speeding citation against Akron-area motorist Mark W. Jenney, who was ticketed for driving 70 mph in a 60-mph zone in July 2008. A Copley Township officer had estimated that Jenney was driving 79 mph but lowered the speed to save him fines and additional points on his driving record.


Although the officer had clocked Jenney on radar, a court threw out the radar evidence because it may have gauged a passing truck rather than Jenney's car.


But the Barberton Municipal Court, and the Ohio Supreme Court, concluded that the officer's trained estimate was good enough.


"Rational triers of fact could find a police officer's testimony regarding his unaided visual estimation of a vehicle's speed, when supported by evidence that the officer is trained, certified by (the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy) or a similar organization, and experienced in making such estimations, sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant's speed," Justice Maureen O'Connor wrote for the court. "Independent verification of the vehicle's speed is not necessary to support a conviction for speeding."


Jenney's attorney, John Kim, said the court's ruling is another step down the road of government raising money - not serving safety - by writing tickets.


"They're essentially saying they're going to allow local municipalities to save money by throwing away their radar equipment," Kim said. "It is asking the ordinary person to set aside their common sense and accept that a peace officer is almost godlike."


The State Highway Patrol will continue to rely on radar readings as it reviews the ruling, said Sgt. Max B. Norris II, a patrol spokesman.


Currently, state troopers do not issue tickets without a radar or laser speed estimate. Troopers use visual estimates to back up readings from their electronic gauges.


"They are trained to be able to judge the speed of the car using a visual estimation," Norris said. "If the visual estimation does not match the radar, then no enforcement action is taken."


Michelle Banbury, the Barberton assistant city prosecutor who tried the case, said she doesn't expect local officers to change their practices.


"The court is still going to require officers to give credible testimony and to be trained properly," Banbury said. "(The ruling) affirms practices that have gone on for years. I really don't think it changes anything."


Casey Schultz, 26, of Westerville, said some officers might take too many liberties with their own visual judgments.


"When I was in driving school, they specifically told us that the human eye can't detect speed," she said. "It just seems odd."


John Souders, 78, of Dublin, said he's not convinced by arguments that police make subjective judgments all the time. During arguments in the case earlier this year, Banbury and the Ohio attorney general's office contended that officers rely on their professional judgment on violations such as aggressive driving and tailgating.


"There is a big difference between estimating speed as opposed to the subjective observation of the distance of a tailgater from the car in front," Souders said.


Ted Hart, a spokesman for Attorney General Richard Cordray, said the ruling still gives the final say on speeding convictions to a judge, jury or other neutral party.


"We are pleased with the court's decision," Hart said.


Ric Oxender, lobbyist for AAA of Ohio, said most officers already err on the side of drivers, so he doesn't expect the ruling to lead to many abuses. But James L. Hardiman, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said he's concerned that the ruling takes away checks and balances on an officer's judgment.
 

PJD642

New Member
May 20, 2010
1,543
east of Cleveland
I just read this in the Plain Dealer. I'm a cop, and I think this is BS. Sure, I'm pretty good at visually estimating within 1-2 mph either side of the actual speed most of the time, but I always verify with radar before I cite. No radar, no cite. OBVIOUSLY speeding in serious excess of the limit will get stopped, probably. Cite? No.


I don't agree with this ruling - Wayyyyy to open to abuse.


ETA: red-light cameras are BS also.
 
May 20, 2010
215
Hamilton, Ohio
PJD642 said:
I just read this in the Plain Dealer. I'm a cop, and I think this is BS. Sure, I'm pretty good at visually estimating within 1-2 mph either side of the actual speed most of the time, but I always verify with radar before I cite. No radar, no cite. OBVIOUSLY speeding in serious excess of the limit will get stopped, probably. Cite? No.

I don't agree with this ruling - Wayyyyy to open to abuse.


ETA: red-light cameras are BS also.


I don't think that the ruling is BS, I look at it as another tool I can use to get PC for a stop. I am certified thru OPOTA as a Radar/Lidar instructor and part of the curriculum is visual speed estimates, however I don't know how I would feel citing just based on observation w/out a radar/laser to confirm. And I have stopped vehicles based on observing vehicles at high speeds not on radar and have cited for reckless operation.
 

cpdchief

Member
May 22, 2010
98
Madison County, AL
I would also not cite based on a visual estimate alone. And neither did the officer in this case. I agree with the ruling. I just hope some cops don't abuse it and keep thier head on their sholders and not up thier, well, you know.
 

SHO-TYME

Member
May 20, 2010
30
Dahlonega, GA
It was talked about on "The Lockridge Report on Sirius/XM 171, most of the truckers that called in said that they have a big enough target on their backs the way it is, plus big trucks "look" like they are going faster than they actually are because of the size.


I personally think it's a joke, so if a cop "estimates" your speed wrong, you're just screwed.
 

ParkPiggy

Member
May 21, 2010
667
Northeast Ohio
I like it. I won't abuse it, and like has been mentioned, have cited before for reckless operation based on visual speed estimates. I don't think we are going to have officers running "visual speed estimation" details, with no radar. I intend to use it, in the times where I am without a radar unit, or unable to get it aimed to clock an excessive speeder (30mph over or more).


We have interstate in our jurisdiction, and I have never cited a trucker. I've found truckers are aware of the consequences of a speed cite with their CDLs. I wouldn't hesitate to cite a trucker, I just don't see them speeding like car drivers do.
 
May 20, 2010
215
Hamilton, Ohio
the wonderful thing about being a cop is that you have discretion on whether or not to cite. i am not a big ticket writer, but i do stop a lot of cars in search of drugs, guns, warrants, dus, etc. this is just another tool to stop a car. i don't think that it will be abused, and as parkpiggy said earlier i very rarely see truck drivers speeding just due to the consequences a citation would have on their cdl status, and i as him intend to use this new tool as well for vehicle stops, will i cite for it, probably not. i think that it is great that the high court in ohio has given law enforcement this tool to work with, especially when it seems that most of the time restrictions are placed on us just to make our job more difficult.
 

rwo978

Member
May 21, 2010
5,196
ND, USA
Visual estimate is part of the required points in radar enforcement.


Visualize


Estimate


activate radar (with tone... can't stand them people that turn the volume all the way down...)


Radar should confirm estimation.


Would I write a speeding ticket for speed without radar, probably not. However, I have, and will continue to write for "care required" in situations like this where they're obviously going faster than the speed limit, but I/radar is not in a position to get a reading. And, I'm talking 15-20 mph over...
 

mcpd2025

Member
May 20, 2010
1,557
Maryland, USA
Yup... Maryland has a charge for speed greater than reasonable. I use it a lot when I am driving, usually at 7-10 mph over the limit, and a car comes racing up on my rear before they realize that I am the po po. In the past I have charged and testified in court and it has been upheld. This court case is slightly different because the officer charged the driver with a specific speed, but its the same basic argument and its been case law in Maryland for quite a while. To be certified a Laser Operator in the state of Maryland you have to complete a course in speed estimation, so you can testify that you were trained.
 

Stendec

Member
May 21, 2010
816
PJD642 said:
I just read this in the Plain Dealer. I'm a cop, and I think this is BS. Sure, I'm pretty good at visually estimating within 1-2 mph either side of the actual speed most of the time, but I always verify with radar before I cite. No radar, no cite. OBVIOUSLY speeding in serious excess of the limit will get stopped, probably. Cite? No.

I don't agree with this ruling - Wayyyyy to open to abuse.


ETA: red-light cameras are BS also.

So on one hand, you are opposed to a subjective, qualitative estimate, then on the other you are opposed to a photographic record of a violation taken as it occurs...Anyone who has been through a basic radar/LIDAR school has had to visually estimate speed and then been 'scored" against the machine. I doubt many smart cops are going to write many cites based solely on a visual estimate, just like smart cops don't estimate distances, measurements or weights when they can actually measure or weigh something, like points of evidence at a crime or accident scene or the weight of seized drugs.


It may be open to abuse, but so are a lot of things in policing. There are plenty of checks and balances built-in just to prevent that from happening. Cops and departments who run blatant speed traps don't last that long, the income from a ticket seldom gets back to the agency, and when the cost of actually putting someone out there to write them and the cost of processing them are calculated out it really doesn't leave much in the way of "profit," but it isn't supposed to.
 

RolnCode3

Member
May 21, 2010
322
Sacramento, CA
In California it's perfectly fine. Just part of training. If you've been trained on estimation of speed, you're good to go. I find it funny that some of you wouldn't do it without a radar gun.


Would you not arrest a drunk driver just because you don't have a PAS?


You've been properly trained, you make your observations and use your training and experience to come to a reasonable conclusion about the speed. It's not rocket science. For those affected by this ruling, you've been handed a powerful tool. Please don't sulk over it and refuse to use it, if you're competent at it.
 

hitman38367

Member
May 23, 2010
881
West Tennessee, USA
ParkPiggy said:
We have interstate in our jurisdiction, and I have never cited a trucker. I've found truckers are aware of the consequences of a speed cite with their CDLs. I wouldn't hesitate to cite a trucker, I just don't see them speeding like car drivers do.

Most professional drivers are trained and know the inherent risks that speeding carries. Most trucks today are governed to a speed at or below most speed limits covering this nation also. However, not all are. The Owner/Operators obviously don't have to abide by any company mandated speed limits as they own their own truck. "Slowhio" as we drivers affectionately call Ohio, is now a 65 mph state on most rural interstates and most big companies have their trucks governed at that speed due to insurance requirements anyway, so I don't see how this law will really affect the trucks on the road unless its abuse becomes rampant although even with radar/lidar, a truck can be falsely targeted like I was one time in Arkansas. Was driving a truck governed at 65 with 45,000 lbs of rice loaded in the box coming over a hill/overpass right out of a 45 mph construction zone. The trooper said he clocked me at 68 but in reality his radar had picked up the RV that just passed me cause it flew by me like it was on fire. I wasn't even doing 47 mph. The officer was cool about it though after I explained the 65 mph governor and the weight of my load. He let me go with a "just slow it down for me".
 

Ben E.

Member
May 21, 2010
2,417
Iowa, USA
It's kosher in Iowa too. I stop people quite a bit just based on a visual estimate. I never have and probably never will issue a citation on it, but it's good for a stop.
 

ParkPiggy

Member
May 21, 2010
667
Northeast Ohio
The citizenry is going a bit crazy on some of our local blogs. They think we are going to be writing for 5mph over the limit! I'm not going to court with a visual speed estimate citation for less then 20-30mph over the speed limit. I'm trained in radar and lidar, and am accurate within 3mph on visual estimates. Its not worth wasting the court of my time for anything less then 20mph on a visual estimate.
 

ryan

Member
May 20, 2010
2,996
Massillon, Ohio
OK,OK,OK in your training classes how does one get trained on "visual estimate" of speed, do you count for a certain distance do you just guess or is there some kind of formula...


I just can't believe that a judge would allow an officer to cite a person based soley on their idea of speed. and then to hear this whole thread talking about..."I will pull you over but I won't site you just look for other things to get you a ticket on"


It is a great way for departments to create revenue which helps me when I build cop cars but it is a double edged sword.
 

rwo978

Member
May 21, 2010
5,196
ND, USA
In my radar training class at the academy 8 years ago, we actually had the instructor take his HP car, set it up on a street, and he'd call out a car to estimate speed. we'd call out our guess. he'd check it with his radar. You had to get 70% to pass the class.
 

ryan

Member
May 20, 2010
2,996
Massillon, Ohio
So Ryan your saying that in a 55mph zone, your sitting in your cruiser in an oil well gas lane and me in my totally sweet twinsonic love machine am cruising at say.... 54 mph. You honestly can write me a ticket for a guessed speed of 60-70 miles an hour in a 55 mph zone?


Seems so far fetched and "big brother" to me that I can see alot of lawyers sharpening their talons ( not a whelen talon or knock-off tal-on) to fight this.


We have 2 patrol officers that have written 9 tickets currently since this has taken effect.


For the record you have to pass the emt class at our local college with an 80% to sit for registry to save lives.


Glad speeding ticket class is only a 70%


That's why god made police officers for those who couldn't be firefighters... J/K LOL am joking dont suspend me... Oh wait it's the new board.
 

Stendec

Member
May 21, 2010
816
ParkPiggy said:
------- They think we are going to be writing for 5mph over the limit! ----------

They are the same ones who think that they have at least a +5 MPH "allowance" - a 65 MPH limit really means 70. :roll:


Our basic trainees have to do at least 20 observations that are checked against an instructor with a calibrated radar or LIDAR unit. That certainly doesn't make them experts, but after doing it enough times, they can get pretty close. Particularly for guys who work a lot of traffic, like troopers, if they've been trolling the Interstate for a couple years and can't get a close estimate visually, they probably shouldn't be writing tickets, or shooting guns, anyway.


It's really a moot issue anyway - the violation is exceeding the statutory speed limit, not be how much. The actual speed is immaterial, except when it comes to assessing points or penalties. Cops "discount" tickets all the time, and nobody complains about that.
 

rwo978

Member
May 21, 2010
5,196
ND, USA
You stated this:

ryan said:
OK,OK,OK in your training classes how does one get trained on "visual estimate" of speed, do you count for a certain distance do you just guess or is there some kind of formula...

So, I stated this, as an example of "visual training":

rwo978 said:
In my radar training class at the academy 8 years ago, we actually had the instructor take his HP car, set it up on a street, and he'd call out a car to estimate speed. we'd call out our guess. he'd check it with his radar. You had to get 70% to pass the class.

And previously stated this:

rwo978 said:
Visual estimate is part of the required points in radar enforcement.

Visualize


Estimate


activate radar (with tone... can't stand them people that turn the volume all the way down...)


Radar should confirm estimation.


Would I write a speeding ticket for speed without radar, probably not. However, I have, and will continue to write for "care required" in situations like this where they're obviously going faster than the speed limit, but I/radar is not in a position to get a reading. And, I'm talking 15-20 mph over...

So this means what? We're starting a pissing match?

ryan said:
So Ryan your saying that in a 55mph zone, your sitting in your cruiser in an oil well gas lane and me in my totally sweet twinsonic love machine am cruising at say.... 54 mph. You honestly can write me a ticket for a guessed speed of 60-70 miles an hour in a 55 mph zone?

I refer back to this, again:

rwo978 said:
Would I write a speeding ticket for speed without radar, probably not. However, I have, and will continue to write for "care required" in situations like this where they're obviously going faster than the speed limit, but I/radar is not in a position to get a reading. And, I'm talking 15-20 mph over...

Actually, let me change that... I would 99% likely never write a speeding cite w/o a radar. I can't say 100% because nothing is never 100%.... :roll:
 

Stendec

Member
May 21, 2010
816
ryan said:
Seems so far fetched and "big brother" to me that I can see alot of lawyers sharpening their talons ( not a whelen talon or knock-off tal-on) to fight this.

What's so far-fetched about it? It's no different that any citation or arrest based on probable cause.


Lawyers will fight anything - they already fight radar, LIDAR, breath-testing equipment, DNA analysis and polygraphy. Hell, some of them still object to color photos.
 

ryan

Member
May 20, 2010
2,996
Massillon, Ohio
Stendec said:
the violation is exceeding the statutory speed limit, not be how much. The actual speed is immaterial,

Well as I just stated, I was cruising at 54 MPH in my Twinsonic love machine. Ryan pulls me over and says..." I watched you drive at 63mph give or take 3 mph. Now my GPS seems to be fairly accurate to the cruisers I work on and their calibrated speedo's...


So I ask him how he clocked me and he says welp... I watched you coming at me and I think you were speeding. It gets into a discussion and he lets me go with a warning. Cool but Oh wait I wasn't driving over the limit in the first place.


I can see this being a real nightmare for the cool cops and dick shoving match for these hard ass newbies trying to make names for themselves.
 

ryan

Member
May 20, 2010
2,996
Massillon, Ohio
I use Ryan in a figurative style of writing...He has never pulled over the twinsonic love machine to this date..
 

Stendec

Member
May 21, 2010
816
OK, that's why we have courts. I'm certain that there have already been or will be cases in which a judge, jury, defense attorney, prosecutor and a cop who wrote a ticket all hop in a van, drive out to a road, and sit there for a couple hours watching cars go by and estimating speeds, while some expert witness verifies it with their method of choice.


I can't speak for other agencies, but nobody where I have ever worked ever made a rep on speeding tickets. It doesn't rank up their with dope seizures and catching murderers.
 

mcpd2025

Member
May 20, 2010
1,557
Maryland, USA
I cannot remember now exactly how many I had to do, but we were required to estimate a certain number of cars speed and verify it by laser and issue warnings. We had to be within 2 or 3 mph to be successful. It is not an exact science, and inevitably there will be judges that are sceptical and will not allow the stop. I always am able to state MY speed and that my observation was that the vehicle was exceeding my speed, so their minimum speed was in excess of XX mph. I have never had an issue with it in court.


Ryan, let me give you another example. You are sitting on the side of the road writing reports, eating a sandwich, doing whatever. You've been watching traffic for the past 10 minutes and know what the normal flow of traffic looks like. Then you see some guy flying up the road, cutting around a vehicle, gunning the engine and accelerating like crazy. You have run laser or radar on this road many times in the past. You know how quickly a vehicle approaches you when it is going the speed limit or 5 mph above the speed limit. This vehicle is flying up you WAY faster than those other vehicles. You know, based upon your training as a laser/radar operator and your experience enforcing traffic law for X years that this vehicle is in excess of the posted speed limit.
 
May 20, 2010
215
Hamilton, Ohio
Currently OPOTA requires 50 visual speed estimations for stationary radar, and 50 visual speed estimations for moving radar, and 50 for lidar as part of the curriculum for the electronic speed measurement device radar/lidar instructor cert. the margin of error can be no more than +-5 mph on average for both stationary and moving. NHTSA also has a 24 hour cert for radar/lidar with the same standards in margin of error and estimations. opinions are like assholes, and everyone is entitled to them, but until this goes up the ladder this is going to be accepted by the courts when it comes to speed enforcement. is it controversial and open to abuse, yes, but so are a lot of other things in law enforcement.
 

ryan

Member
May 20, 2010
2,996
Massillon, Ohio
So what is the officer supposed to put on the ticket if the speed is a guess or estimate of what the offender is driving?


And I do agree, I doubt that any officer is going to actually pull someone over for doing 1-10 miles over the limit using this process, I would think it is a good tool for 15 or more over the limit. But it should be proven with a radar/lidar as back up.
 

hitman38367

Member
May 23, 2010
881
West Tennessee, USA
I was team driving once out in Cali and my partner was driving at the time. A CHP officer cited him for 68/55 and wrote in the ticket "was observed and believed to be traveling at said speed". The citation was also checked off as "visual estimation". The Trooper did not have a perm mount radar in his car nor did he have a handheld. My partner and I returned to Cali with a load so he coulf fight the ticket but the judge upheld it and it cost my partner $458. Just food for thought.
 

Stendec

Member
May 21, 2010
816
C'mon kids, let's get realistic, we will always rely on the instruments, but confirm what they indicate visually, and vice versa. A helicopter crew chief who calls out that a hoist cable is 15 feet off the ground, or that there is ten feet of rotor clearance, is giving a visual estimate, as is a pilot getting ready to flare for landing. Firemen don't visually estimate flame heights and hose lengths? It's based on experience and training that the ordinary person does not have.
 

Ben E.

Member
May 21, 2010
2,417
Iowa, USA
ryan said:
For the record you have to pass the emt class at our local college with an 80% to sit for registry to save lives.


Glad speeding ticket class is only a 70%

I hope you're not insinuating that you would rather make people as good at estimating speed as they have to be to save someone's life... As a normal person, I'd rather make the EMT's get a 100% and leave the estimation of speed at 70%. If someone comes to save my life and they get 20% of whatever they're doing wrong... I'd be really dead.
 

mcpd2025

Member
May 20, 2010
1,557
Maryland, USA
Ben E. said:
I hope you're not insinuating that you would rather make people as good at estimating speed as they have to be to save someone's life... As a normal person, I'd rather make the EMT's get a 100% and leave the estimation of speed at 70%. If someone comes to save my life and they get 20% of whatever they're doing wrong... I'd be really dead.

Ben, you know what they call the guy who graduated lowest in his class at med school right? My sisters and wife are nurses... some of their courses were graded on a curve.... how messed up is that?
 

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