Yes, it’s possible—but it’s difficult, and you certainly don’t want to attempt it without the help of an experienced attorney. Radar gun evidence is considered reliable in court, but radar guns can produce inaccurate readings if they aren’t properly calibrated or used correctly.
If you can provide evidence that points to an inaccurate reading, then you may have grounds for having your speeding ticket dismissed. Let’s discuss how radar guns work, why and when you should consider fighting the ticket, and how best to prepare your defense.
How Radar Guns Measure Speed—and How They Can Get It Wrong
A radar gun detects your speed by “bouncing” a radio wave off your vehicle while it is moving. It measures the amount of time it takes (in nanoseconds) for the radio signal to reach your vehicle versus the time it takes for the signal to bounce back to the gun. Because radio waves travel at a constant rate of speed (i.e., the speed of light), the difference between these two readings can be used to calculate how fast your vehicle was traveling. The new LiDAR guns some police are using operate by a similar concept—they simply use laser light rather than radio waves to measure your speed.
Whatever method the officer was using to clock you (radar or LiDAR), these guns are not infallible. Here are some ways they can produce a false reading:
- Improper calibration. If a radar gun hasn’t been properly (or recently) calibrated, it can yield a bad reading—just like a scale that isn’t calibrated to “zero” will tell you the wrong weight.
- Weather conditions. Inclement weather, especially high winds, can affect the radar gun’s returns.
- User error. An improperly trained cop may aim the radar gun incorrectly, which can cause it to clock another vehicle besides yours.
Why You Might Want to Challenge Your Radar Gun Speeding Ticket
Many people feel it’s easier to pay the ticket than to challenge it in court—and it’s certainly your right to do so. However, you need to know that by paying your traffic ticket, you are effectively pleading guilty to the crime of speeding. Depending on the circumstances of your case, this may have some undesirable consequences. Some reasons why it might be in your best interests to fight the ticket include:
- Paying the ticket may result in points on your driving record, which could cause your insurance rates to increase.
- If you have too many prior points on your license, the ticket could put you over the cutoff, triggering an automatic suspension of your license.
- In Virginia, if your speeding ticket is for “reckless driving by speed”—that is, if you were clocked at more than 20 mph over the posted speed limit, or above 80 mph in general—that’s a class 1 misdemeanor which could result in hefty fines and even jail time.
Ways We Can Challenge a Radar Gun Reading
Radar gun readings can be compelling evidence in traffic court, but a good traffic attorney can still mount effective challenges against this evidence in certain cases. Some ways we can go about doing so include:
Reviewing the current calibration certificate for the radar gun.
If the certificate is old (meaning the gun hasn’t been calibrated in a while), or if it’s filled out incorrectly, this may be enough to get the ticket dismissed.
Evaluating the weather conditions on the day of the ticket.
If you were driving in bad weather when you were pulled over, we can investigate the weather conditions and the cop’s position when clocking you to determine if the reading was affected by the weather.
Claiming user error.
If the officer wasn’t properly trained on the use of the gun, or if he clocked you in high traffic congestion, he may have had the gun pointing at another vehicle, producing a false return.
Citing margin of error.
If you were at or near the speed threshold to be charged with reckless driving, the margin of error of the device could be sufficient to drop the charges down to simple speeding, saving you from a misdemeanor conviction.
Are You Facing a Speeding Ticket in Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, D.C.?
If you've been charged with a traffic violation you need to speak with an experienced traffic defense lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Vienna, Virgnia office directly at 703.991.7978 or our Rockville, Maryland office at 301.637.5392 to schedule your free case consultation.