In a 5-1 decision Wednesday, Ohio’s Supreme Court upheld a speeding ticket based solely upon how fast a driver appeared to be moving. You read that right, an officer’s educated guess is now sufficient to overcome the state’s burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Justice Maureen O’Connor (who’s running for chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court this November) wrote (in part):
We hold that a police officer’s unaided visual estimation of a vehicle’s speed is sufficient evidence to support a conviction for speeding in violation of R.C. 4511.21(D) without independent verification of the vehicle’s speed if the officer is trained, is certified by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy or a similar organization that develops and implements training programs to meet the needs of law enforcement professionals and the communities they serve, and is experienced in visually estimating vehicle speed.
That’s right, no independent verification, just the best guess of a highly-trained and infallible officer of the law. Thank God every police officer in Ohio is completely beyond reproach, otherwise some might abuse a law that gives such sweeping power with absolutely no accountability.
The lone dissenting vote came from Justice Terrence O’Donnell (apparently the only person on the Ohio Supreme Court with any sense) who argued the majority essentially created a standard that the police officer is always right.
This sets a dangerous precedent. In what other areas might an officer’s uncorroborated expert opinion to be admitted as incontrovertible evidence?
On the positive side, imagine the positive impact this will have on the state’s budget. Auction off all that unnecessary RADAR and LIDAR equipment! Speedometers in patrol cars will be a thing of the past!
Hopefully the ACLU (or someone) can get this insane decision before the US Supreme Court where it will be overturned. Unless they, too, have all taken leave of their senses.