Friday, June 4, 2010

Ohio Supreme Court Authorizes Guesstimation.

The Ohio Supreme Court endorsed a long standing police practice of guessing/making things up on Wednesday when it ruled that the trained eyeballs of police officers are enough to hand out speeding tickets. Scientific proof of a driver's speed is not necessary.

Apparently, it is a common practice in that state for officers to issue tickets based on "visual estimation" of one's speed. That practice has now been endorsed by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The 5-1 ruling comes in a case involving a motorist who was given a speeding ticket by a police officer in Copley, Ohio. The officer said his radar had clocked the motorist traveling 82 mph in a 60-mph zone.

He also said that with his 13 years experience as a traffic cop and certification in speed estimation by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, even without the radar, he visually guessed the motorist's speed was at least 79 mph.

A lower court threw out the radar evidence because the officer was unable to produce the required certification for his training on the device. But the court ruled that the officer had the background and training to make an educated guess of the motorist's speed and found the him guilty.

In its ruling upholding that conviction, the Ohio Supreme Court said "a police officer's unaided visual estimation of a vehicle's speed is sufficient evidence to support a conviction for speeding ... if the officer is properly trained."

In this case, the court ruled, the office was properly trained and certified to eyeball speeding motorists. The court added in its ruling that a radar gun "is not necessary to support a conviction for speeding."

I question the margin of error that should be assigned to these police officers' bionic eyeballs. I suppose that if the speed limit was 30 m.p.h., and a police officer guestimated that I was travelling 75 m.p.h., that might be enough to get a conviction. But how can the state prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt if all they have is a guess that I was going 10-15 m.p.h. over the limit?

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