ublished: March 3, 2006

Local News
Can you beat this speeding ticket?

SPRINGFIELD — The U.S. Constitution affords each citizen charged with a crime the right to confront his or her accuser.

And speeding’s a crime.

So if an automated radar unit catches you speeding through a construction zone, can you challenge the ticket on the basis that no human being actually recorded the violation?

The state police are covering their legal bases.

“The (law) does not require that it be manned, but we want to ensure that through court purposes, there is no question,” said Trooper Jeff Darko, coordinator of the state police photo enforcement program.

“In Illinois, through radar enforcement, we’ve established what we call tracking history, where the trooper can testify to the fact that he saw this vehicle speeding above the posted speed limit and, that when he activated his radar, that confirmed the vehicle was speeding.”

Court challenges?

Like any new law-enforcement tool, the automated radar units are likely to be challenged in court. And it could be years until the courts determine how the units may fit within the scope of constitutional rights.

Stephen Komie, a criminal-defense attorney based in Chicago, has already formulated points where he might target a legal challenge.

“The concern I would have as a citizen is, the camera may be photographing a lot more than just the speeder and invade the privacy of those who are in the vehicle when there’s no legitimate state interest in what is going on inside the vehicle,” he said. “It’s one big closer step to the concept in ‘1984’ that society would be monitored by police cameras.”

Technology under fire

He said litigation also could involve questions about how the technology works:

“There would have to be all kinds of testimony to support it in a real confrontational circumstance. You could attack the mechanics of the camera and how it came together. How are they able to connect the speed to the actual person? So you’d have questions of actual proof.”

The easiest way, in his mind, to get one of these tickets thrown out? Undermine the state’s connection between the driver and the vehicle owner.

“The system works on the proposition that it is the owner of the car who is charged regardless of the identity of the driver,” Komie said. “What they’re attempting to do is shift away from ticketing the driver, and you’re ticketing the license plate and the registered owner