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Speed Trap Defense
Inadmissible Survey

Officer Quaak of the Carson Staion of the LA County Sherrif's Department caught me on radar doing 67 mph in a posted 45 mph zone on Wilmington Blvd. beside the Arco refinery. Of course he wrote me a ticket, citing me for violation of CVC 22350 (Basic Speed Law).

Six months earlier Officer Quaak had cited me for 50 mph in the same place, but on the other side of the street. Commissioner Kirkland Nyby (L.A. Municipal) ruled that ticket so ridiculous that he could not let it go to trial, and he dismissed it at the arraignment.

Obviously Officer Quaak needed a lesson in Basic Speed Law, and I decided that beating the 67 mph in a 45 mph zone ticket would do the trick nicely. I showed up at court well prepared.

Officer Quaak also showed up prepared. When the Pro Tem (things happened so fast I did not get his name) called my case first, we both stepped forward.

As part of his testimony, Officer Quaak presented a copy of the survey. I had already reviewed it and knew that it was done within five years prior to the alleged violation and that it actually did justify the posted 45 mph limit.

During the officer's testimony, the Pro Tem flipped through the survey a few times. When Quaak had finished his testimony (including some comments about the previous ticket and my attitude), the Pro Tem informed Quaak that the saw two problems with his case.

  • The survey was not certified by the engineer, and the Superior Court had held (People v. Earnest, 33 Cal.App.4th Supp. 18) that without certification the survey was hearsay and inadmissible. This obviously killed Officer Quaak's case since it involved the use of radar.
  • Secondly, since the courts first started ruling on Basic Speed Laws in the early 19 teens, they had held that speed alone is not sufficient grounds for a conviction; a conviction also requires conditions which make the speed unsafe. Officer Quaak had not testified to any such conditions (probably because there were none).

After giving Officer Quaak a lecture in Basic Speed Law, the Pro Tem dismissed the case and all I got to say was, "Thank you, your Honor, I think you've done a fine job this morning."

FYI:

40802. (a) A "speed trap" is either of the following:
(1) A particular section of a highway measured as to distance and with boundaries marked, designated, or otherwise determined in order that the speed of a vehicle may be calculated by securing the time it takes the vehicle to travel the known distance.
(2) A particular section of a highway with a prima facie speed limit that is provided by this code or by local ordinance under subparagraph (A) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 22352, or established under Section 22354, 22357, 22358, or 22358.3, if that prima facie speed limit is not justified by an engineering and traffic survey conducted within five years prior to the date of the alleged violation, and enforcement of the speed limit involves the use of radar or any other electronic device that measures the speed of moving objects. This paragraph does not apply to a local street, road, or school zone.

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