Speed Traps on the Interstate: Can You Still Salvage the Holiday?

by annbailey on December 4, 2012

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(US criminal law and generally) No driver enjoys being pulled over for speeding. When setting speed limits, public safety officials must consider the presence of large trucks, older vehicles with outdated or poorly maintained equipment, and poorly skilled drivers. Due to these factors, some drivers may believe that speed limits are set well below their skill levels. Additionally, some drivers may be visiting the state on vacation and some drivers may simply not pay attention to their speed. Whatever the cause may be, many otherwise law-abiding citizens may travel at speeds in excess of the limit.

Law Enforcement Tactics

Law enforcement officers use a wide variety of tools to ascertain how quickly a vehicle is traveling. Officers can use LIDAR, RADAR, or even pace the offender’s vehicle with their patrol vehicle. Motorists frequently challenge the accuracy of these mechanical devices, but these devices usually just confirm what the officer already knows. Officers are trained to visually assess vehicle speeds to within a narrow range, and motorists who intend on avoiding a citation should not count on an inaccurate device to save them in court.

When an office receives complaints regarding speeding motorists, highway patrol officers or city police will target that area for enforcement. Saturation patrols are effective at reducing many types of crimes, including traffic offenses, but many officers will simply sit on the side of the road with a speed detection device and pull over speeding vehicles. Some officers will also use speed traps as a tool against speeding motorists.

Speed Trap Philosophy

Motorists use the term “speed trap” in reference to multiple tactics. Drivers frequently use the term in reference to the practice of police officers remaining hidden from other motorists on the roadway, normally in areas with high speeds but relatively few traffic collisions. Some motorists will only use the term speed trap in an area in which the speed limit drops abruptly and the officers vigorously enforce the new speed limit almost immediately. California defines a speed trap as a section of highway with markers for aerial enforcement or roads that are not properly surveyed. Some states, like California, expressly bar some types of speed traps by statute. Other states, like Florida, grant wide discretion to law enforcement officers in determining the appropriate tactics in speed enforcement.

”Do You Know Why I Stopped You?”

Normally, a traffic stop for speeding is a brief encounter with a law enforcement officer. The driver will pull over for the patrol vehicle or at the officer’s command and the officer will approach the driver’s side window. In a situation in which a motorist has been stopped for speeding, officers will normally ask the motorist whether he or she knows what the speed limit is in the area and how fast he or she was going. This is a common tactic on the part of law enforcement officers to gather evidence to use at trial. Motorists who answer in the affirmative will be expected to state their speed and motorists who answer in the negative indicate that they have no knowledge of their speed, thus being in no position to argue the officer’s contention that they were speeding.

If a motorist truly believes that he or she will receive a citation for their alleged conduct based upon the circumstances leading up to the stop, the driver should simply refuse to answer any questions. To clarify the matter for officers, motorists should make a statement to the effect that they understand that officers have a job to do and that they respect law enforcement officers, but that they do not wish to answer any questions. As we are reminded by My Ticket Team advisors in Florida, drivers have a right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and remaining silent will allow the driver or his lawyer flexibility to argue the issue in court at a later date. Unfortunately, it is likely to annoy the officer and eliminate the chances of getting a warning for the offending conduct. If the motorist honestly believes that he or she could or should get a warning for his or her alleged conduct, it might pay to be nice to the officer.

Consequences of a Citation for Speeding

Speeding has consequences. Fines inherently accompany citations and higher insurance rates commonly accompany moving violations. Drivers who accumulate numerous moving violations may accrue so many points on their license that it becomes suspended or revoked. For commercial drivers, speeding tickets can be more serious. Many occupations that involve the employee being entrusted with a motor vehicle require the employee to have a clean driving record, as employers who entrust employees with poor driving records with a company vehicle may be exposed to liability for negligence in the event of an accident. A single speeding ticket can cost the employee his or her job, which can add up to thousands of dollars in lost income as well as a loss of promotional opportunities at the former employer.

Anyone who receives a citation for speeding should retain an attorney experienced in handling traffic cases. A competent attorney may be able to get the prosecutor to dismiss the citation or at least get the citation reduced to a non-moving violation, which can save the citizen hundreds in increased insurance rates. Traffic courts often view citizens as guilty until proven innocent, and citizens with representation can ensure that all of their rights are respected.


Ann Bailey is a legal research writer and posts this speeding ticket advisory for motorists heading out onto the interstates for the upcoming holiday season.  The Florida attorneys at My Ticket Team are advocates for the rights of any motorist stopped for speeding in Florida, whether resident or tourist, and represent clients’ interests in all traffic charge situations.




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