NMA Email Newsletter: Issue #53

Eye In The Sky: Speed Enforcement By Air

Currently, nineteen states have an aviation component to their enforcement of traffic laws. If you live in, or have occasion to drive through, any of the states shown below, you should be aware of how the process works so that you can better defend yourself if you are cited via aircraft for speeding.

States That Utilize Aviation Enforcement
California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin

Highways monitored by aircraft have a series of white lines painted across all traffic lanes. These lines are spaced at one quarter mile intervals. The pilot in the air simply uses a stopwatch to measure the time it takes a vehicle to cross from one line to the next, and calculates travel speed accordingly. If the calculation yields a speed over the posted limit, the pilot radios a trooper in a ground unit, who then pulls the targeted vehicle over and issues a ticket. California law enforcement planes supposedly determine car speed by pacing from the air rather than employing point-to-point tracking.

When developing a strategy to fight such a ticket, it is important to note that both the pilot and the ticket-issuing trooper on the ground must be in court to testify. If either, or both, are absent, the defendant has grounds to obtain a dismissal of charges.

The accused should verify a precise information match between both ticketing officers, and between the officers and the written ticket. Do all of these sources describe identical vehicle details? Does the ticket show that both the pilot and trooper gave the identical contact time between them for this particular citation? Is the proper jurisdiction listed on the ticket? (Troopers may come from different stations, and sometimes cross into a different city or county while stopping a vehicle.) Discrepancies in any of this information can provide opportunities for ticket dismissal.

The defendant should issue a discovery request to obtain log notes that either officer made regarding the case, again looking for inconsistencies, and should also ask for service/calibration records of the stopwatch used by the pilot to verify accuracy at the time the ticket was issued. Both the pilot and trooper should also be asked verify under oath that both of their radios were in proper working order throughout the traffic stop.

Aviation enforcement adds a few details to a typical speeding case, but also provides strategic defense opportunities because of the necessary coordination between air and ground personnel during the traffic stop.

On a unrelated, but interesting note:
Check out the new design of our Speed Trap Exchange website which lists over 55,000 speed traps across the USA and Canada. Please help out the NMA and your fellow drivers by posting the speed traps in your area. Forward the site to your friends and get their input too!

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