Speeding, and Ohio’s Dosadi Experiment [op-ed]
"Ohio isn’t a bad place to be a car owner. There’s no emissions check in most counties, the registration fees are low, insurance is relatively cheap, and the roads are rarely crowded. For decades, however, it’s been a lousy place to be a fast driver. The Ohio State Highway Patrol is omnipresent on the freeways; often parked just a few hundred yards down from local cops who have fought for and won the right to ticket on Interstates which cross their municipal borders. The speed limit is 65 maximum, 55 anywhere there isn’t a broad median. Forget your radar detector, because even the small-time departments have laser guns.
Not that those Barney Fifes need ‘em now. In a 5-1 decision, the Ohio State Supreme Court recently ruled that a “visual estimation of speed” by any cop who has graduated from the “Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy” or similar puppy-mill cop-shop is sufficent to convict a motorist of speeding. No radar, laser, or VASCAR record is required. This ruling borders on the insane, but to a long-time Ohio resident such as myself, it’s precisely what one would expect.
Law enforcement in Ohio is not about safety. It’s about revenue. New Rome gained a nationwide reputation as an utterly corrupt mini-municipality, issuing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of tickets on a quarter-mile stretch of road west of Columbus, but it’s far from the only town in Ohio that subsists on speeding tickets. Ohio is extremely strict on DUI. You will pay huge fines for your first offense and even larger ones for every DUI afterwards. Don’t expect that you will ever lose your license, however; it’s possible for wealthy drunks in Ohio to be convicted of DUI again and again. So long as the fines are paid, the state isn’t terribly worried.
Speeding in Ohio is such a big business that it cannot be permitted to depend on anything as fragile as “proof.” It’s well understood by anyone with the proverbial half a brain that no community-college-graduate cop can be effectively trained to precisely estimate the speed of differently-sized vehicles on a variety of road, in a variety of conditions, but that won’t stop the gravy train. This is too profitable to be subject to the regular process of law. As the dissenting judge in the appeal noted, this is a rare and unique step in preventing a jury or court from determining the veracity of a witness.
“…jury instructions given regularly by trial judges advise that a jury is privileged to believe all, part, or none of the testimony of any witness. Thus, I would assert that a broad standard as postulated by the majority that a trained, certified, and experienced officer’s estimate of speed is sufficient evidence to support a conviction for speeding eclipses the role of the fact-finder to reject such testimony and thus such testimony, if found not to be credible, could, in some instances, be insufficient to support a conviction.”
In other words, if you happen to see a murder in broad daylight, you can expect to be grilled by a defense attorney, but for the far more profitable matter of traffic law, Ohio residents just lost the right to confront and/or examine their accuser.
Frank Herbert wrote a book called “The Dosadi Experiment” about a planet where a deliberately arbitrary and unbelievably harsh system of government was put in place by alien overlords. The purpose of the “experiment” was to breed vicious, devious people who would be capable of destroying governments. The experiment worked and the planet burned. The Ohio Supreme Court should consider what permitting arbitrary police abuse of speeding regulations will do for the relationship between Ohio residents and the people who are supposed to “serve and protect” them."
Hope this is not a re-post....