Have you received a speeding ticket you didn’t deserve?
If so, was it from a hand-held speed-detector?
Drivers like you could be in luck, depending on the outcome of one case currently going through the Downing Centre Local Court.
The case could cast doubt on the validity of speeding tickets, thanks to a technical argument raised by Mr Furio Rossi.
On 26 February this year, Mr Rossi was driving in a 50km/h zone on Sydney’s North Shore. A hand-held police radar gun calculated that he was going at a speed of 101km/hr. Mr Rossi disputed this speed and took the ticket to court.
His lawyer felt that there was a legal loophole to get Mr Rossi off the hook.
The device that police used was a hand-held gun, specifically, a light detection and ranging device, or ‘LIDAR’.
LIDARs can only be used to book motorists if they have a valid certificate to confirm that it is accurate and approved for speed measurement.
While the radar used on Mr Rossi had a standard certificate, it did not measure up to the requirement that it be “approved for speed measurement.”
Without this crucial certification, the evidence of the LIDAR gun could not be used as evidence. Mr Rossi’s lawyer argued in court that, because of this deficiency, police could not prove his speed beyond a reasonable doubt.
At this point, the police prosecutor asked for an adjournment in order to consider the position, and attempt to collect further evidence. The Magistrate granted that adjournment, and the case will return to court on 20 November.
It is not known what this further evidence will be, but police could possibly attempt to rely the police officer’s ‘estimate of speed’ to support its case.
In any case, the outcome of the case could have implications for other drivers who received tickets as a result of a LIDAR.
Predictably, a spokesperson for NSW Police stated that “NSW Police maintains full confidence in its speeding enforcement programs.”
This is certainly not the first time LIDAR guns have been challenged in court. For instance, back in 2011, 29-year-old John Busuttil was charged with speeding by over 45 km/h when it was alleged that he was driving his motorbike 149km/h in a 60km/h zone.
His father, who is a barrister, represented him in court.
Although the Local Court Magistrate found Mr Busuttil guilty, the Judge in Downing Centre District Court quashed the conviction on appeal because the way that police had used the LIDAR gun was “radically wrong.”
In the aftermath of that case, a spokesperson from the NSW police similarly stated that they had “complete confidence in the device.”
What are LIDAR guns?
LIDAR guns are handheld speed detection devices. In order to get a valid reading, police must direct the device at your vehicle for at least three seconds, and the device must be still.
LIDAR guns work by directing a high frequency microwave beam at a vehicle. The shift of frequency when the beam reflects off the vehicle allows the device to detect its speed. Weather conditions, such as fog, can diminish visibility, and rain can interfere with the radar – which can cause inaccurate readings. In addition, long distances between the LIDAR gun and the vehicle can also lead to inaccuracy, or even booking the wrong motorist.
After winning his son’s case, criminal barrister Busuttil encouraged anyone who thinks they have been booked for no reason to contest the fine. But that is easy for him to say – challenging a speeding fine can be time-consuming and costly, especially if you have to pay for a lawyer. And if you are found guilty, the Magistrate can impose an even heavier fine that the one you received from police. So you should always think carefully and receive advice before challenging a fine. Many criminal law firms offer a free first conference during which you can obtain advice about costs and your chances of success.
In the meantime, we will have to wait and see what the court says about LIDAR guns which have not been approved for speed measurement.