Richmond police more than doubled down on traffic citations last year, issuing speeding tickets at over twice the rate of the year before. They staged a “Route 360 blitz” last summer and wrote more than 500 tickets during a so-called “back-to-school blitz.”
But every engineer knows measurements do not mean much if the measuring tool is not accurate. Whether a speed gun or a patrol car’s speedometer, an officer’s speed readings might be right, or they might be “way off.”
Using a squad car’s speedometer to measure your speed
Police up in Alexandria hit a speed bump last year when the city’s own auditor found the department violating state laws. The City police failed to verify that their speed measurements were not bogus. As a result, the city had to refund close to 2,200 of its speeding tickets.
Alexandria police sometimes use an old-school method of measuring your speed. They “pace” your car, following you on the road to match your speed exactly. Then, the officer simply reads your speed from the squad car’s dashboard speedometer.
Virginia state law requires police to calibrate their speed-measuring tools every six months, if not more often. But according to the city auditor’s report, Alexandria staff who calibrate police speedometers “had difficulty articulating ethical concepts or an understanding of the ramifications of … the calibration process.” And after catching one staff member fudging test results, the police department allowed him to sign off more than 100 additional police cars.
In response to the auditor’s report, the city offered to refund 2,169 tickets.
Your ticket might be the result of an “off” reading
Imagine you have a speeding or other traffic citation from Richmond. This may not be hard to imagine. Especially for more serious offenses such as reckless driving, it may pay to find out if the records and methods of calibration for the officer’s equipment were up-to-date and honest.
Even if the speedometer in the officer’s cruiser was properly tested and calibrated in the last six months, and so was the officer’s speed gun, there is one more calibration that may matter to you. Your own vehicle’s speedometer may be off. How can you know you are speeding if your dashboard is lying to you?
A speedometer calibration for your vehicle might show that it needed an adjustment, and the calibrator will give you a certificate saying so. The correction may not entirely explain your driving above the speed limit, but only a few miles an hour might cause a judge to tweak your ticket.
It could reduce the cost of the ticket, have a smaller effect on your insurance premiums and, at any rate, you will now have an accurate speedometer.
In such an instance, an experienced lawyer can also prove helpful. A defense attorney may be able to locate deficiencies and other evidence that could lead to dismissal.