Speeding tickets get tossed, but no LIDAR letup
'PROVEN TECHNOLOGY' | Citations won't stop; cops need test case
November 7, 2009
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter [email protected]
Chicago Police will stick to their speed detector guns -- churning out tickets generated by LIDAR detectors purchased to slow neighborhood speeding -- despite widespread dismissals in Traffic Court, Supt. Jody Weis said Friday.
"It's a proven technology that law enforcement agencies throughout the United States use. It's the best thing on the market right now, and we're gonna continue to use it," Weis said.
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Dismissals or not, LIDAR will keep being used in Chicago, Jody Weis said.
LIDAR stands for "light detection and ranging" equipment. The devices were purchased with great fanfare three years ago to satisfy Chicago aldermen demanding that something be done about rampant speeding on neighborhood streets.,
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown disclosed Friday that LIDAR tickets routinely have been dismissed for the last year -- whenever a defendant takes the time to show up in court to contest the case -- because of legal challenges to the laser technology.
Defense attorneys contend that local prosecutors must hold a special hearing to prove the scientific basis behind LIDAR before using it as evidence.
Ever since Traffic Court judges started ruling in defendants' favor, the city's Law Department has opted to waive contested LIDAR tickets.
Meanwhile, the city continues to collect fines from motorists who voluntarily plead guilty by mailing in their fines or going to traffic safety school.
Now that Brown has lifted the veil on the widespread dismissals, motorists who get LIDAR tickets are likely to start showing up in court in greater numbers.
But Weis said LIDAR technology is here to stay.
"We know we have to address the issue. We know there's got to be some test cases that we think we can prove with the Law Department working with the courts. ... We'll make sure that we resolve this through our Law Department and the courts," he said.
The superintendent acknowledged that the Police Department can't afford to scrap LIDAR, even if it wanted to replace the technology.
"A lot of it comes just from funding. If we have a system that works -- even though it might be a little older -- let's keep using it rather than going out and spending additional dollars for a newer system that won't work. Let's trade them out when their normal life expires," he said.