Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Custer's Last Stand

Matthew C. Custer, pro se, appealed his speeding ticket conviction and won. The appellate court noted at the outset that Mr. Custer was prosecuted under a Rockford municipal ordinance which was punishable by fine only, so the proceeding was civil in nature, not criminal. Therefore, the City was not required to prove defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but only by a preponderance of the evidence. And he still prevailed. This guy is a local legend.

At issue was the Illinois statute which provides that electronic speed-detecting devices shall not be used within 500 feet beyond any speed limit sign. If a radar, or other electronic speed-detecting device, is used in violation of this section, evidence obtained thereby shall be inadmissible in any prosecution for speeding. 625 ILCS 5/11--604(b)(West 2008).

A Rockford police officer measured Mr. Custer's speed at 45 mph in a 30 mph zone using radar. The police officer, however, clocked the defendant while he was still within 500 feet of the speed limit sign. Mr. Custer attached to his brief photographs, maps, and diagrams showing that the location of his alleged speeding was less than 500 feet beyond a speed-limit sign, but the judge still admitted the radar evidence.

The legislative intent underlying the 500-foot rule was "to give a driver time to adjust to the speed limit before subjecting him to radar detection," which the Rockford police failed to do in this case.  For that reason, the judgment of the Circuit Court of Winnebago County was reversed.

City of Rockford v. Custer, 02-09-0743 (September 23, 2010).

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