In a recent Henderson County DUI case, (State v. White, W2011-02301-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 8-31-2012) the Defendant attempted to challenge a stop for speeding by using a land surveyor to analyze video, conduct measurements, and opine that the Defendant was not speeding. The surveyor noted power poles along the highway where the Defendant’s vehicle had been traveling, measured distances between them, noted the time it took for the Defendant’s vehicle to pass from one point to another, and calculated that the Defendant’s vehicle was traveling within the speed limit. Unfortunately for the Defendant, the trial court was more convinced by the testimony of the police officer who testified the Defendant was indeed speeding. The trial court found the stop to be valid and the Defendant was subsequently convicted of DUI (though acquitted of speeding). The trial court’s ruling was affirmed on appeal.
Attention was initially drawn to the Defendant’s vehicle when a concerned citizen reported a reckless driver and was able to describe the vehicle and the tag number. A police officer responded. According to the officer, he followed the Defendant’s vehicle for less than thirty seconds before concluding the Defendant was exceeding the thirty miles an hour speed limit. The officer testified he himself was going forty-two miles an hour and the Defendant was exceeding his speed. The officer did not use a radar gun.
In contesting the basis for the stop, the Defendant presented the testimony of the land surveyor who analyzed the patrol car video and measurements between distances of power poles which the Defendant’s vehicle was observed passing. According to the land surveyor’s calculations, the Defendant was not exceeding thirty miles per hour.
The trial court, though not disputing the surveyor’s measurements, noted that the surveyor only calculated the average speed between the segments of power poles, and could not say how fast the Defendant’s vehicle was traveling at any specific point. The vehicle could have been exceeding the speed limit at one point and traveling under the limit at another. The trial court credited the police officer’s testimony that the officer observed the Defendant exceeding his own speed when he was traveling at forty-two miles per hour. The Defendant only challenged the initial stop on appeal and not the sufficiency of the evidence for DUI.
Reasonable suspicion of criminal activity is required before a police officer may initiate a stop and investigation of a vehicle. If you have a question about whether a specific stop was valid, contact Hindman & Associates.