8/12/2015Federal Court Allows Speeding Stop For Loud, Fast Looking Ford Mustang
US magistrate judge upholds traffic stop of a Ford Mustang based solely on the visual estimate of its speed.
When Ohio's Supreme Court ruled that speeding tickets could be issued by a police officer based on his visual guess of the defendant's speed (view ruling), the reaction was fast and furious. State lawmakers rallied within a matter of days calling for a revision to the state's speeding law that would overturn the precedent. Now a federal judge believes traffic stops can be made based on visual estimates anywhere in the country that falls under federal jurisdiction.
Daniyar Tuyakbayev, 30, found this out after driving in San Fransisco's Presidio neighborhood about a half-hour before midnight on January 18, 2015. US Park Police Officer Eric Cole was standing behind a bus stop at Lincoln Boulevard and Pershing Drive, having pulled over another motorist. He says he heard the loud roar of Tuyakbayev's 2014 Ford Mustang engine and, from a hundred yards away, he guessed it was traveling 20 MPH over the 30 MPH speed limit. He waved his flashlight, ordering Tuyakbayev to pull over.
"I was driving at the posted 30 miles per hour speed limit, and I did not exceed it," Tuyakbayev testified.
US Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James decided instead to believe the Park Police officer when he said the Mustang looked and sounded like it was going really fast.
"Officer Cole's belief that defendant was speeding was not premised on a mere hunch, but rather, on Officer Cole's observations that he heard defendant's loud engine accelerating towards him and observed defendant's car traveling at a very high rate of speed," Judge James wrote. "Officer Cole also attests he was trained and certified to visually and accurately estimate the speed of a moving vehicle as part of his law enforcement duties."
Judge James added that the stop was valid because Tuyakbayev's Mustang did not have a front license plate. Nineteen states do not require front plates, and newly purchased cars in California -- Tuyakbyev's Mustang was a 2014 model -- can drive with a paper permit. Officer Cole admitted during testimony that he did not check the back plate prior to the traffic stop to see whether the vehicle required a front plate.
"Officer Cole attests that based on his training and experience, he knew the vehicle defendant was driving was the type of car for which the DMV issues two license plates," Judge James ruled. "He also attests that during his tenure as a USPP officer and having conducted over one thousand traffic stops, he has never encountered a passenger vehicle like defendant's that was issued only one license plate. An officer has no duty to negate every possible explanation of innocence before taking action."
Because Tuyakbayev's motion to dismiss the traffic stop was rejected, the evidence that he was driving under the influence of alcohol will be considered by the court. A copy of the ruling is available in a PDF file at the source link below.