Proof Of Innocence

A co-worker sent this to me. It has to be one of the more interesting attempts (and a successful one) for beating a traffic ticket. This is something right out of the old TV show Numbers.

I can attest to the fact that math can help you beat a ticket.

On one occasion in the distant past I received a speeding ticket in the town of Braintree, Massachusetts. The police officer who cited me said I was doing 65mph in a 40mph zone. There was only one problem: the car I was driving at the time would have had to been able to accelerate from 0 to 65 mph in under 4 seconds. (I had just pulled out of a side street and onto the road in question a couple of hundred of feet from the officer's cruiser. But since I was driving a 1979 Dodge Omni with a 1.7 liter 4-banger, that feat of acceleration was impossible.

As the officer was writing up the ticket I noticed his radar was still on and more than once in a 1 minute period registered speeds well in excess of 40mph along the road in question. I found that interesting considering there was not one single vehicle on the road when the radar displayed the speeds. Looking closer at where the officer was set up I realized what was happening.

After getting permission to leave my vehicle for a moment, I pulled out my ever present 100' tape measure and started taking some measurements, specifically the distance of his cruiser from the side of the road (he'd flagged me down), the distance from the side of the building he'd used to shield his presence from cars coming down the road, and the distance of that building from the elevated highway behind and to one side of where he'd parked his cruiser. I also asked the officer for the make, model, and serial number of the radar system he was using to measure speeds. (Fortunately he didn't seem to mind. I guess he thought I was just wasting my time.)

To make an already long story short, I decided to fight the ticket.

The day of my court appearance arrived and I showed up with my ammunition: two poster boards- one with a diagram of the 'scene of the crime', showing the distances of all of the pertinent objects including the side street I'd pulled out of, the location of the cruiser, the building he'd been next to, and the distance to the highway; and the other with the same diagrams now overlaid with lines of sight and some equations. I also had a copy of the data sheet for the radar unit the officer used, some other literature from the manufacturer, and a textbook, in this case Skolnick's Radar Systems Handbook.

When my case was called, I made my presentation to the judge after the prosecuting officer made his case. After explaining my diagrams, the measurements I made, and asking the police officer if he thought the diagram was reasonably accurate (he admitted it was), I brought out the second poster board with the second set of diagrams and equations and showed how the officer's radar wasn't measuring speeds along the road I'd been traveling, but the highway behind him. The diagram showed the width of the beam emitted by the radar, how more than half of the radar energy was being reflected back to the elevated highway, and that the speeds the officer was measuring was that of the traffic on the highway.

At this point the judge asked me my profession.

“I'm a radar systems technician for [Really Big Defense Contractor].”

I was found not guilty.