Thursday, February 11, 2010

LIDAR speeders may now hold up in Cook County

Back in November, I wrote about how Cook County judges were routinely dismissing speeding tickets based on "high-tech LIDAR speed detectors." Nobody minded much because, as Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown wrote in a November 6 column, "the vast majority of accused speeders [disposed] of their tickets by just mailing in the fine or going to traffic school."

Those who spent their money on a lawyer instead of the fine got a good return on their investment. Everyone was happy... until, as so often happens, too many people learned about the trick.

By the time I found out about it, the City of Chicago had decided it had better press for a Frye hearing and establish that the device is generally accepted and reliable for ascertaining a vehicle's speed. The routine dismissals stopped.

The problem in getting such a hearing was economic: No one wanted to spend the money to put the hearing on in any given case. Why would someone who'd received a ticket fight this battle -- fraught with the prospect of defeat -- when, after incurring all the expense, he or she would be rewarded with a conviction?

Apparently no Frye hearing was held in Cook County on the LIDAR technology (although one had been scheduled for this week).

Instead, Meghan Twohey reports this morning in the Chicago Tribune, Judge Eileen Burke has found a Second District case that establishes the reliability of LIDAR to her satisfaction.

The Tribune does not name the case. The case is, however, People v. Mann, 2010 WL 258801 (Ill.App.2nd Dist. 1/15/10). The case specifically addresses the admissibility of LIDAR readings without a Frye hearing. In the absence of contradictory authority in the First Appellate District (Cook County), this opinion will presumably be followed by all other Cook County judges as well. See, Garcia v. Hynes & Howes Real Estate, Inc., 29 Ill.App.3d 479, 331 N.E.2d 634, 636 (3rd Dist. 1975) ("The opinions of any Appellate Court necessarily are binding on all Circuit Courts across the State, but not on the other branches of the Appellate Court.")

Update: Credit where credit is due: Mark Brown also refers to Judge Burke's ruling in his column this morning.

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