Legal Question in Traffic Law in Washington

Can the police set up speed traps in private property?

I was recently given a ticket for speeding. I heard that the police cannot set up speed traps on private property (the police officer was set up in a school parking lot), and I want to know if this is true. I am taking the ticket to court to plead my case (I'm not disputing the actual ticket iteslf), and I was wondering if the court runs off of what is written on the ticket or what the offense actually was. The ticket was written for going 5mph over the speed limit, but in reality I was goin more like 10mph over and I was tailgating. In court, do I talk about the 5mph over or the 10 and the tailgating?

Asked on 2/12/02, 11:19 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Paul Ferris Law Office of Paul T. Ferris
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Re: Can the police set up speed traps in private property?

You should review the speed trap statute, RCW 46.61.470. The definition of a speed trap does not include a radar-wielding officer hidden from view. Permissible speed traps must be on public highways - the officer is not required to also be on a public highway.

Typically . . . actually, in every case, the purpose of a mitigation hearing (explaining circumstances rather than contesting the citation) is to seek some leniency from the court. If the officer cited you for 5mph hours when you were admittedly traveling 10mph over, you cannot help yourself by raising the inconsistency, unless it is your desire to be generous with your contribution to the state's coffer. For the same reason, you should refrain from discussing tailgating.

The court will only make a finding on the violation charged. The court will not likely find that you were traveling faster than the speed cited on the face of the ticket, even if the officer wrote a higher speed in his report.

If by chance the officer claims that he recorded your speed by observing your vehicle travel through a particular stretch of road (i.e. speed trap) you should consider changing your request from a mitigation hearing to a contested hearing.

You may also want to consider asking the court about an order deferring findings - this is a procedure whereby your case is continued for up to 1 year and, if you refrain from incurring new violations, is dismissed. This type of disposition can only be used once each 7 years for moving violations (and 1 per 7 yrs. for non moving violations.

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2/13/02, 3:55 am

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