As indicated on the NMA/MA site, the clerk magistrate was a necessary evil to get to a real judge. I showed up in New Bedford court 1/2 hour before the trial was scheduled to begin at 9 AM. I was told the judge handles the traffic cases first so the police can quickly get back to work. Isn’t that nice?! As I sat there with my 5 pages of questions and watched the courtroom fill up with about 50 people for the morning session, I realized I would not be allowed to ask all my questions. I quickly culled them down to about 15 to 20 of the ones that I thought would have the most impact. At 8:55AM, the state trooper showed up. Game on!
I was the first case called. I was amazing at how informal it was. I was the only defendant in the courtroom in a suit. Both the trooper and I got sworn in. This was a little unnerving since I didn’t plan to testify. The judge explained that the trooper would tell his story first, then I would have a chance to ask questions, then I would get notified by mail. I didn’t expect that but I guess if I was successful, they didn’t want the whole courtroom to know. Is that typical?
The trooper looked at his copy of the citation and began to basically read the citation. I was going to object on grounds of independent recollection but since I was going to use the ticket against him later, I kept my mouth shut.
I started out asking how he measured my speed. A little annoyed, he said, “I clocked you as I just said.” I asked him if he could show me on a map where he started following me and where pulled me over. He said he could not, but he was sure it was over a mile. I then asked him if he couldn’t remember where he started following me, how could he be sure it was in a 55 mph zone. He said he was sure it was.
I asked if his speed was steady during this time. He said it was between 65-70 mph. “So it wasn’t steady,” I said. He repeated it was between 65-70 mph. I then stated that this sounded more like an estimate and asked why estimate was not noted on the citation. He said that it wasn’t really an estimate.
I then asked him how long he followed me for. He said (really annoyed now), “for one mile.” I said I meant in seconds and he replied, “60 seconds.” I then pointed out if that was the case, I must have only been going 60 MPH, not the 65-70 MPH he noted on the citation. “Well, some time less than 60 seconds,” he said quickly. ‘Score one for me,’ I thought.
I now asked him the date of the citation. He said (again annoyed since I asked him stuff he already said), “September X.” I asked if that is what was written in the box date of offense. He looked at the citation and said it has an ‘s,’ which is a standard abbreviation for ‘same.’ “So the date of citation was not filled in correctly?” He repeated that the ‘s’ is a standard abbreviation.
Now came the questions about the public records request. I asked why he had ignored my four public records request per MGL 66:10. He said he only got one. Then he read what I requested. He said the only information available was the administrative log which I got. I quickly pointed out it took 32 days to get this small amount of information in direct violation of the 10 days the law allows. I asked about the maintenance records. He stated that the maintenance records and speedometer calibration were kept ‘at fleet.’
I asked if he knew why my request for maintenance information and the calibration information for the speedometer to fleet was ignored. He said he didn’t know. I then asked what cruiser he was operating at the time of my citation and he said #XXX. I asked if he had the calibration certificate for the speedometer in cruiser #XXX. He replied it was factory calibrated at Ford and there is a sticker on it. I repeated my question and he said fleet maintenance would have that. I bought up the fact that fleet had ignored my public record request. I also pointed out that without the maintenance records, he would not be sure that the correct size tires were on the vehicle, which would effect the speedometer reading. Then I wound up for my fast ball:
“So you do not have independent verification that the speedometer in your cruiser was accurate on September X, 2003?” and he said, “No!”
Then, after a little pause he half-heartedly mumbled something about having radar in this cruiser, which is calibrated annually and that he checks it against his speedometer on a regular basis. I wasn’t expecting this and failed to ask him to produce the radar calibration.
I then closed with a motion to dismiss based on the following:
- I was denied access to evidence necessary for defense by the State Police ignoring FIVE public records request under MGL 66:10.
- The officer followed improper procedure by not accurately filling out the date of citation and not having me sign the citation under MGL 90C Section 2.
- The officer further was unable to accurately determine the time and distance he used to determine this speed. Also, he testified he clocked me accurately, but wrote a speed of 65-70 mph on the citation.
- Furthermore, the State Police followed improper procedures by not producing any evidence that the speedometer was calibrated properly and the cruiser was maintained properly.
I was shocked when the judge then asked how fast I was going. I didn’t expect to be asked any questions by the judge! Instead of “I’m not sure,” I said “I’d rather not say.” I knew I didn’t have to testify against myself, but that statement sure made me sound guilty!
The day I got home from court, I got a reply from ‘the fleet’ with maintenance records. No speedometer calibration certificate was included. I can’t believe the arrogance of the police in using a speed measuring device without calibration. Even gas pumps get calibrated every two years!
But then received my notice that I was found NR for the aboved offense!
Thanks to you and the NMA for your great web site and great help.