Ohio officer Ken Roth doesn’t need no stinking radar guns, he has speed-calibrated hearing. Well, he did until the Ohio Court of Appeals ruled that a motorist cannot be convicted based solely on what Roth said he “heard” as speeding.
Roth stopped the car of Daniel Freitag in the village of West Salem while the latter was driving with his wife Jane. Roth claimed that his radar clocked Freitag at 42 MPH in a 35 zone. Roth also claimed he could hear Freitag’s 2006 Lincoln Navigator speeding.
Here are the facts laid out by the court:
Ptl. Roth testified that he heard Freitag’s vehicle before he saw it. He further testified that he first observed Freitag’s vehicle when it was approximately 100-150 yards behind him. He testified that he observed the vehicle only through his rear-view and side-view mirrors until it passed alongside his patrol car. Although he testified that there were other vehicles on the roadway, including one approaching from the same direction as Freitag’s, Ptl. Roth later testified that he would not have been able to hear any other vehicles besides Freitag’s.
Ptl. Roth testified that he learned how to audibly determine if a vehicle was speeding from 150 yards away through his experience and training with an unidentified field training officer when he first began working in the field seven years ago. He later admitted that once he began to follow Freitag’s vehicle, he had no way of measuring speed unless he was driving in the same direction behind the vehicle because his radar does not work while his patrol car is moving.
Freitag testified that he was driving a 2006 Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicle that evening. He testified that Ptl. Roth told him that he pulled him over for driving left of the center line and for speeding. Freitag testified that it was “completely impossible” that he was speeding because he is aware that the police constantly patrol U.S. 42. He further testified that he assumes his sport utility vehicle makes more noise than other vehicles.
Jane Freitag testified that she was sitting in the back seat behind her husband as he was driving through the Village. She testified that Freitag was driving “normally” and that he was not speeding because he never exceeds the speed limit in West Salem or anywhere else. Mrs. Freitag testified that, while she could have seen the vehicle’s speedometer from where she was sitting, she did not look at it while her husband was driving.
The state failed to lay the foundation for the type of radar used. The trial judge simply took judicial notice that it was a “Genesis Radar”, but could not determine the model. The appellate court found it was improperly introduced as evidence in a prior appeal.
Then it got really weird. Roth insisted that sound alone was sufficient to confirm speeding: “As it approached I could hear the vehicle on the roadway which based on my training and experience it is consistent with a vehicle that was in excess of the posted speed limit.” What is equally bizarre is that the trial judge agreed.
The officer testified that he was trained to audibly determine whether a vehicle is speeding; however, he did not explain how he was trained to do so. Moreover, the officer testified that he “audibly heard the speeding, not the speed of the vehicle.” It is simply incredible, in the absence of reliable scientific, technical, or other specialized information, to believe that one could hear an unidentified vehicle “speeding” without being able to determine the actual speed of the vehicle. The officer offered no testimony regarding how he might have been trained to audibly distinguish various speeds, let alone to distinguish the speeds of various makes and models of vehicles. In addition, although he admitted that there was another vehicle on the roadway and traveling the same direction as Freitag’s at the time, the officer did not explain why he could hear and distinguish Freitag’s vehicle, while he could not even hear the other traffic.
The panel held “[t]he weight of the evidence does not support the conclusion that Freitag was exceeding the posted speed limit, specifically because Patrolman Roth’s testimony that he audibly and visibly determined that Freitag was speeding is not credible… It is simply incredible, in the absence of reliable scientific, technical, or other specialized information, to believe that one could hear an unidentified vehicle ‘speeding’ without being able to determine the actual speed of the vehicle.”
What prosecutors litigate this case? Even if you can find a judge willing to sign off on such a ridiculous claim, who litigates these cases?
The case was prosecuted by Martin Frantz and Latecia E. Wiles.
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