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By Jordan W. Charness

I am often asked for my legal opinion on what constitutes a defence for various tickets. So let’s take an example of a question I was asked recently so that you can see exactly what the police must prove, how good this type of excuse would be, and how well I would be received in court.

The driver’s excuses for speeding were, “It was very sunny, so the sun was in my eyes and I could not tell how fast I was going. Then, I saw the cop signalling me to pull over, so I did. I was going with the speed of traffic. I wasn’t accelerating to pass somebody. There were cars in front, behind, and to the side of me. The cop never showed me the radar gun.”

In order for a driver to be convicted of this offence, the police must prove that:

  1. They have properly identified the driver, the date and place the offence was committed as well as the approximate time.
  2. The vehicle involved in the incident is correctly identified.
  3. The offender was properly notified of the charges against him or her.
  4. The actual speed driven as proven by laser or radar.
  5. The laser or radar machine was properly functioning and had been properly tested both before and after the officer came on duty.
  6. The laser or radar machine operator was a police officer who had been specially trained and was capable of using the units.

My analysis of the driver’s defence:

You seem to be claiming two things in your defence. The first is that the sun was in your eyes. If anything, this defence would work against you. A judge would most likely think that if the sun were in your eyes, you should have made sure to drive more slowly because it was difficult for you to see the road.

Your second defence seems to be that you were going with all the other traffic and had cars in front and beside you doing the same speed. There is consistent jurisprudence that says that since it is impossible for the police to catch everyone, the fact that “everyone else was doing it” is not a valid defence.

However, take a look at the ticket and see if you were caught by radar or laser. A laser machine puts a little red dot on your car and virtually never makes a mistake as to which car was caught. If it was radar, which is unlikely these days, it might conceivably mistake your car for another one. You must, at that time, suggest to the judge that you saw another car and describe it in detail. The police officer is under no obligation to show you his laser machine.

The chances of winning:

Based on the limited information that you gave me I would estimate your chances of being acquitted at about 30 per cent. This ticket should probably be paid.

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