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Many speeding tickets issued in Greenburgh, New York are issued on I 287. For the past several years there has been construction along parts of I 287 including that portion of I 287 that runs through Greenburgh which has created a “speed trap” where the speed drops from 55 mph to 45 mph. As with most speeding tickets, the officer alleges that he first made a visual estimate of the vehicle’s speed and then confirmed his visual estimate with a radar or laser unit.

In most cases the officer is in a stationary patrol car somewhere on the side of the road. In People v. Magri (1958) the New York Court of Appeals recognized the general reliability of radar speed detection thus making no longer necessary for the prosecution to produce an expert at speeding ticket trials involving radar speed detection.

The Magri decision concerned stationary radar. In other words, the radar unit was in a parked police car. The Magri decision did not address the general reliability of moving radar – radar readings taken while the police car is moving. However, in People v. Knight, 72 N.Y.2d 481 (1988), the New York Court of Appeals found that because the underlying scientific principles of moving and stationary radar are the same, moving radar evidence should also be admissible without the need for expert testimony to explain the nature, function or scientific principles underlying radar.

Therefore, whether the case involves stationary or moving radar, the prosecution will not need to produce an expert at trial. However, the prosecution will need to prove that the particular unit was in proper working order and that the officer was properly trained and properly used the unit when he measured the vehicle’s speed.

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At Tilem & Associates, our attorneys are familiar with the law and the science behind traffic cases such as speeding and DWI. You’ve been issued speeding ticket in Greenburgh, New York (or any other jurisdiction within New York State) and you appear for your court ordered “conference” with the prosecutor at which time the prosecutor may or may not offer to reduce the charge in return for you pleading guilty to the reduced charge and waiving your right to trial.

In the event you cannot reach an amicable plea bargain with the prosecutor, your case will be scheduled for trial. At trial, the officer will generally testify that he first made a visual estimate of your speed and then verified that estimate with either a radar or laser unit. In People v. Magri (1958), the New York Court of Appeals acknowledged the general reliability of radar speed detection thus making it unnecessary for the prosecution to present expert testimony at speeding ticket trials involving radar.

In People v. Knight, 72 N.Y.2d 481 (1988), the New York Court of Appeals acknowledged the general reliability of moving radar as well. Whether the case involves stationary or moving radar, the prosecution still must prove that the particular radar unit was working properly at the time it measured defendant’s speed and that the officer was properly trained and used the unit properly.

However, because the potential for error is greater with moving radar than with stationary radar, the Court of Appeals also held in People v. Knight that when the prosecution is premised upon moving radar as opposed to stationary radar, “the prosecution will bear a greater burden of proof in demonstrating the accuracy of the particular radar unit involved.” Id at 487.

This can make a difference where the speed is based upon moving radar because most officers are not trained to visually estimate the speed of a vehicle while the officer is in a moving vehicle. Therefore, if you were able to convince the court to exclude the moving radar evidence, the officer might not be able to substantiate the charge based solely upon his visual estimate as he could if he made the visual estimate while stationary (as he was trained).
Is this a likely scenario? Probably not as most courts admit radar and laser testimony on the flimsiest of foundational evidence. Nevertheless, an attack on the legality of the vehicle stop can be critical where that stop leads to an arrest on a more serious charge such as DWI, Aggravated Unlicensed Operator, weapons possession or drug possession. If the basis of the stop is found to be illegal (unconstitutional), it may result in the suppression of all evidence derived from the stop.

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Most officers who issue speeding tickets in New York will typically testify that they first made a visual estimate of the speed of the vehicle and then confirmed that estimate with either a radar or laser unit.

At a speeding ticket trial in New York, the prosecution need not present expert testimony to explain how radar speed detection works or its scientific principles. In People v. Magri (1958) the New York Court of Appeals recognized for the first time, the general reliability of radar speed detection thus making it no longer necessary for the prosecution to produce an expert at speeding ticket trials involving radar speed detection.

Accordingly, held the Court of Appeals, “the time has come when we may recognize the general reliability of the radar speedmeter as a device for measuring the speed of a moving vehicle. Therefore, continued the Court, “it will no longer be necessary to require expert testimony in each case as to the nature, function or scientific principles underlying [radar].” Id at 566.

Of course the prosecution still must show that the particular radar unit the officer used was in proper working order. Id. Usually the officer testifies that he conducted an internal calibration test. This is generally done by the officer pushing a “test” button on the unit. If it is working properly a specific number will appear on the LED readout. The unit can also be tested by tapping a tuning fork provided by the manufacturer and holding it in front of the unit. The tuning fork is set to a certain speed. If the unit is working properly it will display the speed the tuning fork is set for. Also, the officer can test the unit by having another vehicle drive through the radar beam at a known speed and see if the radar unit displays the correct speed.

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