Laser Speeding Tickets & The Law

Police laser guns, often called Lidar, work by sending pulses of light to an object, like your car. The pulses of light bounce back to the device, which measures the change in the distance between the pulses to calculate how fast your car is going.

The officer holding the gun aims it at a specific car, often focusing the laser point on the front license plate. Laser guns have been in use to catch speeders since the late 1980s, but they are not nearly as widespread as radar guns, partly because they are more expensive for police departments to buy.

Laser Speeding Tickets & State Laws

Courts in some states, including New Jersey and Hawaii, have ruled that laser guns have been sufficiently tested and are proven accurate. Other courts have refused to accept laser gun readings at all in speeding cases. The Ohio, an appellate court tossed out a speeding ticket, ruling the laser guns weren’t scientifically reliable. (The decision is here: Ohio Laser Gun Decision Ruling  , And here is a News Story  about the decision is here.) As of this writing, the case had not been reversed, but the state of the law is constantly in flux.  In many jurisdictions, the issue hasn’t been conclusively decided and each judge may have the authority to decide individual cases.

In jurisdictions where the courts haven’t accepted the technology yet, attorneys have successfully challenged laser guns as “novel science,” a legal term for scientific evidence that hasn’t been tested enough.  Lasers have to be held very steady to take an accurate reading. If the officer moves the gun, the laser will take readings from different parts of the car, which can result in an error of as little as a few miles per hour to, in one test, 60 miles per hour.

The guns also have to be regularly calibrated - how often is up for debate in many jurisdictions. Some police departments check the machine each day that it’s used, others calibrate them annually or semi-annually. A machine that hasn’t been checked for accuracy very recently can become the basis to fight a speeding ticket.

Some have questioned whether laser gun technology can catch speeders in snow storms or in the rain. They have argued there’s no way to be sure the laser didn’t actually bounce off a snowflake or raindrop. Police officers insist the devices work in bad weather. Unlike older technology, DNA or radar detectors for example, laser guns are still being tested in courts around the country for a variety of reasons.  An attorney can help decide if a specific ticket, in a specific jurisdiction, can be challenged, and the best way to go about that.

Fighting Speeding Tickets from Laser Guns

Can a Traffic Ticket Attorney Help?

Fighting a speeding ticket when police use a laser gun can be difficult but not impossible. Police laser guns work differently from radar guns, and law enforcement agencies say they are even more reliable. Police particularly like them because they’re more difficult for detectors,  so called “fuzz busters” to detect. But they aren’t foolproof and attorneys around the country have been able to get the results of laser guns thrown out by challenging the accuracy of the technology or the training of the officer using the gun. Laser guns also need to be regularly calibrated, if they’re not, their results may not hold up in court. Some attorneys have questioned their effectiveness in the rain or snow as well.  Attorneys have also successfully challenged laser gun results by claiming that the officer operating the gun didn’t have enough training and may have made a mistake.


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