Before I was a traffic defense lawyer, I used to think staying in a pack of cars made you safe from the radar gun. I thought that the officer could not get a solid reading on any one car so we would all be immune from getting a ticket.
That is dead wrong.
The officer in Virginia simply has to be able to testify that his radar got your vehicle going the alleged speed. Unfortunately, the standards for that can be a little bit lax, depending upon the court you’re in.
In some cases, it’s good enough for the officer to testify that there was a pack of vehicles all visually going the same speed and that the speed of the vehicles according to the radar gun was a certain mile per hour. As long as he can testify beyond a reasonable doubt that the vehicles weren’t going different speeds, that could be enough for a judge to find you guilty of speeding or reckless driving by speed.
The other thing that makes a pack of cars not a good prevention for tickets is that the officers have what’s called a “fastest” feature on most of the radar units. If they see a group of cars and one vehicle is visually traveling faster than the others, they can hit the “fastest” button on their radar, and it will tell them the speed of the fastest object in the group. That could be used in cases where you’re in a group, but you’re going faster than the rest of the group. Arguably, that does show reliably what your speed was when matched with the officer’s visual observations.
Here’s the key: the officer’s evidence in a speeding or reckless driving by speed case is going to be a combination of his visual observation and the readout from his radar or laser gun. Being in a pack of cars does not make you immune from the officer being able to see you and his equipment being able to tell the judge what speed your vehicle was going.
photo credit: Steven Vance
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