Motor vehicles - Speeding - Radar.


Byline: R.I. Lawyers Weekly Staff

Where a Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal magistrate sustained a charged violation of G.L. 31-14-2 ("Prima facie limits"), that ruling should be affirmed based on evidence from a Smithfield police officer about a radar unit.

" Specifically, Appellant challenges the accuracy of the speed registered by the radar unit.

"In order for a radar unit reading to be admissible at trial, the testifying officer must satisfy two preliminary requirements: 'the operational efficiency of the radar unit was tested within a reasonable time by an appropriate method,' and (2) 'testimony setting forth [the officer's] training and experience in the use of a radar unit.' State v. Sprague, 113 R.I. 351, 355-357, 322 A.2d 36, 39-40 (1974). Moreover, 'radar speed meter readings are admissible without a prior showing of the reliability of the [device] that was used to test the accuracy of the radar unit.'

"At trial, Officer [Scott] Hopkins testified to the 'operational efficiency' of the radar unit that he used to determine the speed of Appellant's vehicle. It is clear that the moving radar unit was 'tested within a reasonable time and by an appropriate method' as Officer Hopkins stated that he calibrated the moving radar unit 'internally and externally prior to and after the stop[,]' and determined that it was 'in good working order.' ... Officer Hopkins also stated that he was 'trained in the use of radar at the Rhode Island Municipal Police Academy[,]' which satisfies the second prong of the Sprague analysis.

"Furthermore, Officer Hopkins' undisputed testimony reveals that Appellant admitted during the stop that he knew he was travelling over the speed limit as 'he had the cruise control set to 55 because he thought that the speed limit was 45.' Here, the Trial Magistrate's acceptance of Officer Hopkins' entire testimony at trial including Appellant's admission is not clearly wrong as the record is devoid of any evidence indicating that Officer Hopkins' testimony contained 'inherent improbabilities or contradictions.'

" As the members of this Panel did not have an opportunity to observe the live testimony of Officer Hopkins...

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