I received a speeding ticket recently. When I asked the officer to let me verify the radar reading, he said that another officer clocked my speed and called him in to make the stop and give me a ticket. Is this legal? In other words, can an officer who didn't actually see me speeding give me a ticket based on information received from a second officer?
Generally, it's legal for one officer to ticket a driver based on another officer's radar reading. As you can imagine, officers working in pairs—with one in position radaring cars and another down the line a ways making the stops—can enforce the speed limit laws more effectively than if they were working alone.
But when officers team up and ticket drivers in this way, it can present some challenges for proving the violation in traffic court. In other words, when two officers are involved in ticketing, it might give the driver some additional lines of defense in fighting the speeding ticket.
Believe it or not, drivers beat lots of tickets simply because the officer who issued the ticket doesn't show up in court. Generally, when the officer doesn't come to court for the trial, the judge will dismiss the ticket. When two officers were involved in ticketing a driver, both officers need to be present in traffic court for the trial. If either or both of the officer doesn't show, the judge will typically dismiss the case. So, having two officers involved in a traffic case increases the odds that the driver will be able to win his or her case this way.
If a traffic court judge does allow a trial to go forward with only one of two officers present, the rules of evidence can make it difficult for the single officer to prove the violation.
Generally, witnesses can testify only about events of which they have personal knowledge. In most instances, personal knowledge equates to an officer actually observing a violation take place. When officers (or any other witnesses) try to testify about events they didn't actually see with their own eyes, it's normally considered "hearsay." In other words, the officer is testifying based on someone else's statement rather than what the officer actually saw. Hearsay is generally inadmissible in court, assuming someone makes an objection.
When two officers are involved in issuing a speeding ticket, both officers will typically need to testify to establish there was a speeding violation committed and that the driver who was ticket was correctly identified as the culprit. With only one of the officers present in court, there will likely be some holes in the case.
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