We have all been there. Driving down the road, listening to our favorite music on the radio, or talking with family or friends in the car. Then, out of nowhere, a police officer is right behind you with his lights on. You're getting pulled over. It is not a fun experience, to say the least. You may (or may not) know why the officer stopped you, but you are soon to find out.
The time to argue your ticket is not on the side of the road with the police officer. Nothing good happens when you argue with the officer. You can read about what you should do when your stopped by a police officer in another article.
Over 90% of the citations issued in Maryland are just "paid out" - meaning the person just pays the fine on the ticket, and takes the point(s) (if the ticket is a moving violation). Having a conviction on your record can increase your insurance rates for years, and lead to the suspension or revocation of your driving privileges.
The time to argue your ticket is in court - in front of a judge. The only way you can do that is by requesting a trial (not a waiver hearing - I discuss your three options for complying with a Maryland ticket in a previous article). Only an attorney who handles a lot of traffic tickets knows the technicalities, loopholes, and defenses that might get you out of the ticket.
Depending on the specific charge, there may be a few, or many different ways to get out of a ticket. From errors on the citation to errors in the officer's testimony to bad science.
The "defenses" most people use in court are not valid defenses. Neither "I was going with the flow of traffic" nor "The officer didn't show me his radar" work.
There are very specific foundational facts that must be entered into evidence for you to be convicted of a charge. So if even one of the facts is missing, then the case should be dismissed. A lawyer knows how to spot and use these errors to your advantage.
Let's face it, not every case can be won. There are those times when the officer did everything right. They produce all of the foundational evidence, and testify to all of the elements of the charge. When this happens, the goal is to still eliminate and/or reduce impact to your driving record, insurance rates, and your wallet.
Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the police officers, especially when it comes to cross examining them, is a huge advantage.
Each judge has his or her own way of doing things, including how they handle a docket, what charges they really don't like, and what defenses they are more likely to accept (or reject).
If you take into account taking off work, the stress of going to court, and the potential increase in your insurance rates for 3 to 5 years, then hiring an attorney could actually be less expensive than just paying out the ticket.
In the vast majority of cases, you don't even have to go to court. Maryland law allows an attorney to appear for you in court, as long as jail is not a potential penalty.
Citations that qualify:
Going with the flow of traffic is not a defense. Here in Maryland, especially along the interstates (I-70, I-95, I-695, I-195, I-795, etc.), 'the flow of traffic' is generally above the posted speed limit.
The way the speeding law is written (Transportation Article §21-801.1), as long as you are traveling above the posted speed limit, regardless of reason, you are technically guilty of speeding.
Even though many police officers don't issue citations for just a couple miles an hour over the limit, they are allowed to do so.
A police officer can only stop one vehicle at a time (unless the officer is working as part of a speed enforcement team, then they can collectively stop more than one vehicle at a time), so as many judges say "you were the unlucky one that day."
If you received a speeding ticket in Maryland, and would like to discuss your case with Scott, complete the Traffic Ticket Evaluation Form.
The answer to your question varies slightly depending on what technology the officer used to obtain your speed. In Maryland, almost all stops for speed are based on either LIDAR or RADAR (although your speed can be determined by pace, VASCAR, or other means). How the unit works and how the officer determines that the speed reading is from your vehicle differs slightly between the two.
LIDAR units use pulses of light to determine the speed of a vehicle. When the officer lines up the sight on the LIDAR unit with the front of the car, he/she pulls the trigger and three pulses of light (laser beams) are shot at the target, reflect off of the target, and are then 'received' by the LIDAR unit. The unit then uses distance the laser beams traveled, along with how long it took them to travel the distance to determine the speed of the target vehicle. LIDAR units are typically certified to be accurate to +/- 1 MPH and are claimed to be vehicle-specific to up to 4,000 feet or 3/4 of a mile, although most readings I see are under 2,000 feet.
LIDAR units are deemed to be vehicle-specific because the 'angle of influence' (how wide the beam is) of the laser beam is so narrow that even at a distance of 4,000 feet, the beam should not be wider than one car.
RADAR units use pulses of radio waves to determine the speed of a vehicle. Unlike LIDAR units, most RADAR units are always on, sending and receiving signals (although there are some instant-on radar units). RADAR units also have a much wider 'angle of influence', so the officer must take additional steps to make sure that the reading the unit is displaying is accurate and for the proper vehicle. As part of the 'proper operating procedures', the officer is supposed to visually estimate the speed of the target vehicle. The reading on the RADAR unit should correlate with that visual estimate.
Pacing is when the officer essentially follows a vehicle and uses the police cruiser's speedometer to get a speed. In theory, when a police officer paces a vehicle, the officer's cruiser and the target vehicle are traveling at identical speed, with the target vehicle immediately in front.
VASCAR is used in a manner similar to a pace, but the police cruiser does not need to be traveling at the same speed as the target vehicle. In fact, the police cruiser can be stationary. VASCAR works based on the mathematical formula of distance divided by time equals speed (e.g. 65 miles divided by 1 hour = 65 MPH). When stationary, the officer measures a distance between two objects (for example two telephone poles) and enters that into the VASCAR unit. When a vehicle passes the 1st known object, the officer clicks a button starting the timer on the VASCAR unit. When the vehicle passes the 2nd known object, the officer clicks the button again, stopping the timer. The VASCAR unit then calculates the average speed of the vehicle between the two objects.
Regardless of the method the officer used to obtain your speed, an experienced traffic defense lawyer knows how to exploit every possible weakness in the State’s case. If you received a speeding ticket in Maryland, and would like to discuss your case with Scott, complete the Traffic Ticket Evaluation Form.
It is a common misconception that an officer has to show you his RADAR or LIDAR (Laser) device. In Maryland they can't even lock the speed in. At trial it comes down to the officer's word against your word. The officer was presumably using equipment that has been calibrated and certified. Most stops in Maryland are based on LIDAR, or laser, although many police cruisers have RADAR units installed. Some of these RADAR units are "moving" RADAR units, which means the unit can obtain speed readings of other vehicles while the cruiser is moving.
LIDAR units are deemed to be vehicle-specific, because the laser beam is so narrow. The LIDAR unit has a red dot in a sight, and the officer places the red dot on the front of your vehicle (typically aiming for the license plate, or grill) and pulling the trigger. The LIDAR unit then sends out three pulses of light that bounce off the front of your car, and are reflected back to the LIDAR unit. The unit then uses the distance that those three beams of light traveled, along with the difference in time between the light pulses to calculate the vehicle speed. The speed shown on the LIDAR unit is supposed to be accurate to within 1 MPH, and it also gives the officer the distance between your car and the officer to the 1/10th of a foot.
RADAR units have a much wider beam, so it 'gathers' more information. The unit displays the speed of the strongest signal, not necessarily the fastest object. Among other operating procedures, the officer is supposed to use the "Doppler Tone" to determine the strength of the signal. The louder, and higher the pitch of the Doppler Tone, the stronger the signal.
Moving RADAR uses the same technology as Stationary RADAR, but the unit has two RADAR antennas, operating at different frequencies. Because the unit uses two different antennas, there are more checks that must be done to make sure the unit is operating properly, and when used in moving mode, the officer is supposed to make sure that the speed at which the RADAR unit thinks the cruiser is driving matches the speed on a certified and calibrated cruiser speedometer.
There is a way to fight speeding tickets, and an experienced attorney knows how to exploit every possible weakness in the State's case. If you received a speeding ticket in Maryland, and would like to discuss your case with Scott, complete the Speeding Ticket Evaluation Form, and Scott will contact you.
If the officer asks
Do you know why I stopped you?
No Officer, I Don't
If the officer told you why he stopped you, now is not the time to argue.
Here are your options to comply:
For more information about your choices, read this post.
* 30 days to comply if you receive what is called a "minor traffic ticket" (jail is not a potential penalty). If you are charged with "serious traffic" offense(s), you must appear for trial, and a trial date is automatically set.
If you would like Scott to take a look at your case, complete the Traffic Ticket Evaluation Form.
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The police office can absolutely run your plates.
Many police cars (including most Maryland Transportation Authority Police Department cruisers) have plate scanning technology.
The officer must make a visual check to make sure that the operator of the vehicle matches the picture of the driver that appears on the officer's screen.
Just because the stop may be "good" (which it still may not be), there are certainly other defenses in a Driving While Suspended (DWS) case.
Many times, I have clients who were charges with the incorrect version of the DWS statute.