Should I Request the Radar Calibration Records to Fight My Speeding Ticket?

By , Attorney (University of San Francisco School of Law)

Question: Should I Ask for Radar Calibration Records?

I got a speeding ticket for doing 70 miles per hour in a 55 mile-per-hour zone. The cop had radar but shot me from three lanes and 1,000 feet away during moderate traffic.

I've been driving for six years and had a clean record. I heard something about requesting calibration records on the radar gun and wonder if this would be worth the effort.

Answer: Radar Calibration Records Can Help You Beat a Ticket

Using the radar calibration records won't ensure that you'll get out of a speeding ticket. However, the reliability of radar devices depends on whether police kept them in good working order. Calibration is an essential part of the necessary maintenance. So, if you're planning to fight a speeding ticket that was based on radar, you'll typically want to obtain the radar calibration records.

According to the operations manuals that come with police radar, to ensure accuracy, every radar unit is supposed to be calibrated with tuning forks before each and every working shift and also before and after being used to detect each speeding violation. The forks used to tune are also sensitive creatures: If not kept in a box protecting them from moisture and jostling, they become inaccurate.

But, if you attend a few traffic court trials, you'll notice that almost all officers swear they calibrated their radar units just before issuing the ticket. What they usually mean is that they flicked on a switch built into the radar unit itself, then switched it back to regular operation. Radar units often have an internal calibration function. But these internal calibrators aren't typically as accurate as tuning forks. If you ask about calibrating with a tuning fork, and the officer who ticketed you has not testified to doing so, it may be enough to get you off the hook.

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