Are Speed Traps Legal? How Do I Fight a Speed Trap Ticket?

The legality of speed traps and applicable defenses to related speeding tickets.

A speed trap commonly refers to any area where approaching drivers must slow down to comply with a reduced speed limit, wherein officers frequently issue speeding tickets. While these areas where the speed limit suddenly changes may be frustrating for drivers, speed traps aren't necessarily illegal. This article will explain what constitutes a speed trap and how a driver might be able to beat a speed trap ticket.

What Are Speed Traps and Are They Legal?

People use the term "speed trap" to describe various scenarios. Some people use the term to refer to an officer hiding behind a billboard or other obstruction trying to catch unsuspecting speeders. However, the term is most commonly used to refer to situations where the speed limit is reduced for a certain stretch of a roadway. The classic example of a speed trap is a small town on a highway that reduces the speed limit dramatically (say from 65 to 30 miles per hour) for a half-mile stretch.

Speed traps are an inconvenience for drivers and sometimes appear to be intentionally designed to for local municipalities to raise revenue through ticketing. But still, there's usually nothing illegal about the use of speed traps. Regardless of drivers' suspicions, local governments justify these reduced-speed zones as necessary to ensure public safety. After all, it's reasonable to conclude that highway-speed traffic could present serious dangers to children and other pedestrians going about their business in town. And the fact that an officer was sneakily hiding behind a billboard sign generally isn't a valid defense to a speeding ticket.

Are There Defenses to Speed Trap Tickets?

Each state has its own rules governing speed limit enforcement. Many defenses to speeding tickets relate to challenging the reliability of the officer's speed measurement. These kinds of defenses can apply to any type of speeding ticket. But some states have rules directly related to speed traps that can give a driver additional way to fight speed trap ticket.

Justified Speed Limits

In some states, the law requires evidence that specific speed limits are justified by safety concerns. For example, California's speed trap law requires posted speed limits to be justified by an engineering survey. In other words, speed limits are mathematically determined based on various factors, including the amount of traffic and nearby safety concerns. Under California's speed trap law, with certain exceptions, a speed limit isn't enforceable unless supported by an engineering survey.

Clearly Posted Signage

Another possible speed trap defense is based on inadequate signage. Almost all states require that speed limits be posted in a clearly visible manner. So, you might be able to beat a speed trap ticket by presenting evidence that the speed limit sign was obscured by branches or other obstructions.

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