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calibration checks are important

A properly calibrated Radar gun?

Very common for amateurs to postulate about how they will “beat their ticket” by challenging whether the radar gun was calibrated. Honestly, we get a laugh out of it. There are all sort of threads out there talking about demanding the traffic cop prove they calibrated the radar or laser gun before they used it. None of the people posting seem to have an idea how to go about this in court, but there is always someone who claims to know someone who beat their speeding ticket because the officer didn’t prove the speed gun was calibrated.

Radar calibration

Just to be clear, when a police officer issues a speeding ticket in BC, they can do so without using a speed measuring device. In many such cases, they may have a problem proving the offence beyond a reasonable doubt in traffic court because their speed estimation may be called into question and in fact there are many frailties to this approach.

The best practise is for the officer to estimate the speed, used a device to measure the speed and if the measurement is reliable and consistent with the estimation, then take enforcement action. One measurement tool is radar.

Radar comes in two forms – either vehicle mounted or handheld. When they come from the manufacturer, they are shipped with a document confirming their reliable capacity to measure. They are calibrated, but the calibration is done by the manufacturer, and they are designed such that they never require recalibration. It’s like comparing a measuring tape to a standard measuring tape. The length of the tape will not change in any meaningful manner after it is put into use.

What this means is that the police do not calibrate radar devices. Demanding that the officer tell you about how they calibrated the device will not get you to an acquittal.

Laser calibration

Lasers measure distance and the change in distance over time to calculate speed. There are three factors there. Can it properly measure the distance? Can it properly measure the change in distance? Is the clock functioning as it should?

All of these things are issues but none of them are subject to calibration by the officer. Simply put, the devices again arrive with a document confirming they are functioning properly. With both radar and laser devices there are internal and officer tests to ensure they are working properly, but it is never an issue of an officer calibrating a device.

Questions about device reliability

If you cringed a little when we used a measuring tape as an analogy, we understand. Unlike a measuring tape, you can’t see the radar or laser signal and so there are always viable questions to pose to an officer about the particular device they used. Whether they calibrated it, or the steps they took to calibrate the device are useless questions, however. If you set out to run your own defence and that is your approach, you are focused on something that doesn’t help and missing the points that do.

DIY plumbers often find themselves calling a real plumber to fix their home repair. When you lose at trial, usually there is no possibility of repair which is why we discourage DIY lawyers from defending their own speeding ticket.

If you have speeding ticket, give us a call. We defend tickets all around BC and chances are good we’ll find a defence that doesn’t rely on calibration because we’re the original BC Driving Lawyers and we’ve been successfully defending speeding tickets for decades.