A police officer can now stop a car in Iowa that appears to be traveling fast after pacing it for just three seconds, according to a state Court of Appeals ruling issued last week. Marshalltown Police officer Jacob Fogt determined the red Toyota Camry driven by Russell Gentry Jr was breaking the law after pacing the sedan over the course of 144 feet on June 2, 2017.
“Officer Fogt testified his visual estimations were ‘pretty accurate,'” Judge Thomas N. Bower wrote for the three-judge panel. “In addition to his visual estimation of Gentry’s speed, Officer Fogt paced the Camry, making sure his speed and the distance between the vehicles remained the same.”
Officer Fogt was following the Camry on North Fourth Avenue, which has a speed limit of 25 MPH. He estimated that the Camry was traveling at 30 MPH. He then maintained a constant distance behind the Camry for three seconds, or 144 feet. The squad car’s speedometer and GPS both read 33 MPH.
At that low speed, and with the stop being made so swiftly, the difference between a legal speed and breaking the law was between one and two car lengths. For that reason, states like Pennsylvania have mandated that police must pace a car for at least 1584 feet for a ticket to be valid (see Pennsylvania Code Section 3368). As Iowa contains no provision of this sort, the appellate court found the evidence against Gentry sufficient for establishing probable cause to make a traffic stop.