What is a Speed Trap?

White car driving through a speed monitoring zone

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The first thought people have when they think of a “speed trap”, is an officer with a radar gun hiding in the bushes or behind a billboard writing tickets to people who can’t see them. This is not a “speed trap”. Actually, the term “speed trap” is a reference to California vehicle code sections 40801, 40802 through 40805. Although complex these statutes break down primarily into four main components…

  1. An Officer cannot determine your speed by timing your vehicle over a known distance.

If a vehicle’s speed is determined by timing how long it takes that vehicle to travel a known distance, it’s a “speed trap”. People will often say the officer “clocked me”, but this is rarely done anymore so most likely it will not apply to your speeding ticket.

  1. There must be a Traffic and Engineering survey of the roadway.

If an Officer is using an electronic device like a radar or a laser to determine your speed, there must be a Traffic and Engineering survey to justify the speed of the roadway. If there is no Traffic and Engineering survey, it’s a “speed trap”. Most cities have the proper Traffic and Engineering surveys but If an Officer forgets to bring the survey to trial and they used an electronic device to determine your speed that would be considered a “speed trap”. This however does not apply if you were cited on a local road, street or in a school zone.

  1. Officers using electronic devices must have P.O.S.T. training.

An Officer must have 24 hours of Peace Officer Standards and Training to use a radar and an additional 2 hours of training to use a laser to determine your speed. If an officer uses a radar or laser to determine your speed and they are not properly trained, it’s a “speed trap”. Most Officers receive this training in their academy, but if the Officer does not testify that they have received this training that would be considered a “speed trap”.

  1. The device the officer uses must be calibrated.

A radar or laser must be properly calibrated every 3 years prior to the date of the violation if it has not been calibrated, it’s a “speed trap”. Major agencies calibrate their equipment every year, but if the officer does not testify that the device was properly calibrated that would be considered a “speed trap”.

This is a simple break down of the basic California “speed trap” statutes which can be a bit more complex, if you have a speeding ticket and want to know if the “speed trap” statutes apply to you and your case, please give us a call at RPM Law.