Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ohio Ruling Allows Speeding Tickets to be Issued Based on Visual Estimates

It seems the most elaborate radar detector or laser jammer may do you absolutely no good if you're driving in Ohio. The state's Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of a decision that allows speeding convictions to be upheld based simply on a police officer's visual estimate of the driver's speed.

Nearly two years ago, motorist Mark Jenney was clocked going 82 mph in a 60 mph zone in Copely, Ohio. During the hearing, Officer Christopher Santimarino reportedly failed to produce proper certification documentation for the clocking device, making the evidence useless. However, Santimarino's 13-year tenure, paired with visual speed estimation training by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy allowed his approximate to be taken into consideration. Santimarino's training reportedly allows him to estimate vehicle speeds within four mph of the actual velocity, but he did estimate Jenney's speed at 70 mph -- a far cry from what the device stated.

After appealing the decision, an appeals court ruled against Jenney. Not the least bit dismayed, Jenney ultimately continued appealing the decision until it reached the Ohio Supreme Court. In a 5-1 vote, the court upheld the lower courts' decision that an officer's judgment is enough to surmount the state's burden of proof.

"A majority of the appellate districts that have considered the issue have held that an officer's testimony that, in his opinion, a defendant was traveling in excess of the speed limit is sufficient to sustain a conviction for speeding," said Justice Maureen O'Connor. "We hold that a police officer's unaided visual estimation of a vehicle's speed is sufficient evidence to support a conviction for speeding if the officer is trained. Independent verification of the vehicle's speed is not necessary to support a conviction for speeding."

Justice Terrence O'Donnell, the single opponent to the vote, wrote an opinion arguing the court had just created a ruling implying a police officer's testimony is always correct.

"Like any other witness, a police officer's credibility is to be determined by the jury or other fact-finder," O'Donnell wrote.

You be the judge -- is this a fair verdict for Jenney, or a bum rap for motorists in Ohio? Regardless of your opinion, we have one recommendation: keep a careful watch on your speedometer when traveling through the Buckeye state.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, Thenewspaper, automobilemag