6/12/2020Ohio Supreme Court Eliminates Need To Prove Laser Gun Accuracy
Laser and radar speed gun claims are admissible in Ohio courts without need for expert testimony or other proof of accuracy.
If a machine claims a motorist was speeding, he must have been speeding, according to the Ohio Supreme Court. The justices ruled 6 to 1 on Wednesday that there is no longer any need to prove the accuracy of a radar or laser speed measuring device in a court of law.
Joseph G. Rodojev brought up the issue of the accuracy of the LTI 20/20 TruSpeed S laser gun -- a controversial device from a brand that was for a time banned in Hawaii (view Hawaii Supreme Court ruling) and had its potential for misreadings exposed in the media and court documents overseas. Rodojev had been accused of speeding in Brook Park on May 17, 2017.
At trial, the court just assumed the laser gun reading was accurate without taking judicial notice of previous findings or hearing any expert testimony. Rodojev did not present a strong case arguing the known inaccuracies of laser speed measurement. Instead, he argued against the admission without foundation of the most vital evidence in a speeding offense case. This allowed the high court to point to its 1958 ruling admitting the scientific principles underlying radar and conclude that laser guns are based on the same form of 'speed equals distance divided by time' formula.
"We are satisfied that the scientific principles underlying laser speed measuring devices are sufficiently reliable and hold that the results of a laser speed measuring device are admissible in Ohio courts without expert testimony establishing their reliability or the court taking judicial notice of the scientific principles underlying that technology," Justice Melody J. Stewart wrote for the majority. "Other substantive challenges to the results of a laser speed measuring device -- including challenges involving the angle at which the officer held the device in relation to the targeted vehicle, the device's accuracy-validation algorithms, the device's calibration and maintenance schedule, and the officer's qualifications to use the device -- implicate the sufficiency and weight of the evidence, not its admissibility."
Any challenge to the weight of the evidence may only be made on a "case-by-case basis," the court concluded. Justice Sharon L. Kennedy blasted her colleagues for their reasoning.
"The majority makes a policy determination to make it simpler for the state to make its case against defendants charged with speeding offenses," Justice Kennedy wrote. "Because the majority gives the state a free pass on one of the most essential parts of proving its case for a speeding offense -- the reliability of the device that produced the results that will in effect determine the defendant's guilt or lack of guilt -- I dissent."
Justice Kennedy argued that the general principles underlying laser speed measurement may be well established, but that does not mean that any particular device is actually using those principles correctly.
"A laser speed-measuring device registers a number on the device's screen, and if the number is high enough then the vehicle's driver can be charged and convicted for violating the law," she wrote. "There is no logical connection between the number that appears on the screen and a person's observance of a moving vehicle. Without an expert's explanation of how a particular speed-measuring device works, we have no reason to trust that the number on the screen is an accurate determination of a vehicle's speed or that the device's results are reliable."
A copy of the ruling is available in a 200k PDF file at the source link below.