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BY: Michael

Your Traffic Law Questions, Answered!

But don’t worry if you still have some—you’ll have a shot to ask.

A while back, we announced that traffic lawyer Matthew Weiss, Esq., who runs the website “Confessions Of A Traffic Lawyer,” would be answering traffic law questions for any and all of our loyal readers who had problems or issues they wanted an expert opinion on. Well, the first round of Q&A is in, and we're happy to present it here.

If you have a question you didn't have the opportunity to send our way yet, don't sweat it—this is an ongoing series, so you still can. Write your question in the comments below, shoot us an email (it's lawhelp@0-60mag.com), or drop us a line via Facebook or Twitter, and we'll include it in the next installment.

Nick asks via Facebook:

Does it count as reckless driving or exhibition of speed if you're in full control of your vehicle and there are no obvious hazards (like other cars) surrounding you? Say, doing doughnuts or drifting in an empty lot (no spectators).

Mr. Weiss:

Great question Nick. Reckless driving is a criminal offense AND a moving violation. In New York, the type of crime is a misdemeanor and the type of moving violation is a 5-point ticket. It can also result in your auto insurance rates being raised for 36 months. Therefore, we definitely recommend fighting these types of tickets. The definition of "reckless" is broad and, therefore covers a wide range of activities. It includes any actions which creates an unreasonable risk of injury to persons or damage to property. Therefore, doing doughnuts or drifting in an empty parking lot could qualify as reckless driving.

Maggie asks via 0-60mag.com:

I received a radar speeding ticket in Marin County, California. I was traveling in the third lane in heavy traffic. At the same time as I spotted the CHP officer parked on a freeway entrance triangle approximately six lanes away, a car in the fourth lane passed on the left. I alone received a ticket, however.

What are the odds that the officer's radar gun read me, instead of the other vehicle passing me? How do they know they have the correct vehicle? How accurate are the radar guns, and how often are they calibrated? I was traveling at 81 mph, the officer said I was going 84 mph, and I believe the vehicle to my left was probably going 84 mph. This leads me to my main question: on what grounds can I challenge this ticket?

Mr. Weiss:

Maggie, Thanks for submitting your questions about your speeding ticket. First off, you admit in your question to speeding. Going 81 mph is illegal in California and the "I was only going 81, not 84" defense will not help you. Therefore, I recommend that you do not admit that you were speeding. This cannot help you. Instead, try and negotiate with the prosecutor for a reduced charge. This sounds like your best bet. There may be other defenses that you can raise but it is impossible to ascertain them from your question. With that said, below are the answers to your radar questions. If the CHP officer used a laser, then he would simply have to place the beam on your license plate to obtain your speed. The results are instantaneous and therefore there is little room for getting the wrong vehicle. It is different with a radar device, however. Radar send a radio waves out in a conical shape. The farther away the device to the object detected, the larger the cone. Therefore, the police office must set up the device in a way that excludes other traffic. For example, if he is monitoring southbound traffic, he needs to set up the device to cover the southbound lanes, wait for a lull in traffic and then see if the radar device is picking up north bound. If he is getting no readings, then he knows that his cone is not extending into the northbound lanes. In your case, there were three vehicles going the same direction. Therefore, he needs to testify and/or prove that you were the only vehicle in his zone of influence (the conical area between the device and the outer limit of his radar setting). If he proves that you were the only vehicle, then he can use the radar to establish your speed. Keep in mind that he can also testify as to his visual estimate to establish your speed. A visual estimate is just what it sounds like: the officer using his eyes to make an assessment of your speed. One last thought. The officer must also testify that he was trained and qualified to use the laser or radar device as well as doing visual estimates. I hope this helps and good luck fighting your ticket!

Andrew asks via Instant Messenger:

If you blow by a cop who's waiting at a light to turn onto the road you're on and he doesn't necessarily give chase, but catches up to you with his lights on once you've had your fun and slowed down... are you screwed? Even if he couldn't possibly have read your license plate from his original vantage point, and was just going on the make of your car?

Mr. Weiss:

Andrew, If the officer can accurate identify you and/your car, then he can certainly issue you a disobeying red light ticket or speeding ticket (as the case may be). He doesn't necessarily need to have seen your plate to identify you or your vehicle. Further, if he can prove that he never lost sight of you, then he has a very strong case against you.

[Photo via Flickr]

  • Nick says:
    November 4, 2011 at 1:03 am

    Hey, thanks for the answer to my question. I'm bummed by what you have to say but better to know! Of course, I'll still fight it like crazy if I ever happen to give in to the urge to whitewash my car and I get caught.

  • Ryan says:
    December 7, 2011 at 3:10 am

    Question for Mr. Weiss - Ever since I moved from my home state two years ago, my dad has been bugging me to get a new license in my current state, New York. If I get pulled over in a rental car, can I get in trouble for having an out of state license as a technical New York City resident? Even when I'm not driving, is it really necessary to change my license over to NY? I hate going to the DMV... Thanks.

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