In 1923, California outlawed speed traps by enacting a section in the Vehicle
Code. This section was enacted to meet the particular evil existing in 1923 of traffic enforcement
officers physically marking a portion of the highway and then, while in hiding, timing every automobile
as it passed through the marked area. The only type of "speed trap" prohibited by California
law has four characteristics: (1) a particular section of a highway; (2) measured as to distance; (3) with boundaries
marked, designated or otherwise determined; and (4) the speed of the vehicle calculated by computing the time it takes the
vehicle to travel the known distance.
The California Attorney's General Office issued an opinion in 1969 identifying that their is an inherent risk in matching
speeds with the target vehicle. In aircraft speed enforcement, a fixed wing aircraft has a pilot and an officer
observer that watches the traffic. The observer places a mark on the inside of the glass when that mark, the vehicle
being tracked and a predetermined mark on the highway are aligned. A stop watch is started. When the car
reaches a second mark the stop watch is stopped. A calculation is made on how fast the vehicle is going. A traffic
stop is initiated on the vehicle by a ground unit, and a ticket is written for
the speed estimated by the observer.
- Does this violate California's speed trap law? I believe so.
Do Judge's routinely dismiss these airplane enforcement cases? NO. Most people issued
traffic tickets simply post their bail and opt for traffic school, or plead guilty. The judges
in traffic court have rarely heard a well-researched and accurate points and authorities in support of airplane-enforced
tickets being illegal. Typically, traffic courts are presided over by the least-experienced
judges: temporary judges or court commissioners. Furthermore, very few attorneys regularly practice in traffic
court, so few judges have much knowledge of basic traffic infractions. The few
attorneys that do practice in traffic court, do so because it is a relatively easy area of the law,
and do not perform legal research. Furthermore, who would think that anything that the state has invested so much money
in aircraft, training and other resources would be illegal. Therefore, absent sufficient evidence and concrete
legal analysis, few judges are willing to determine such a large scale state action illegal.
How can a ticket be legally issued from an airplane? My position for the only way to legally
issue a ticket from an airplane is for the airplane to pace the vehicle like an officer in a vehicle
would do. The officer would follow the vehicle trying to find a speed that keeps him the same relative distance behind
the vehicle. The inherent problems with pacing were identified in a 1969 California Attorney General's opinion.
In addition, when traveling in an airplane the speed is determined by the wind blowing over the wing. Therefore, if
the airplane is flying in a 30-mph head wind, the airplane is moving over the ground at 30 mph less than its airspeed.
The problem is that the airplane traffic enforcement units have no ability to make these measurements.
As such, pacing does not provide sufficient evidence to accurately determine a vehicle's speed.
So, how do you beat an airplane traffic enforcement ticket?
The odds are stacked against everyone in traffic court. The only way to beat the ticket
is to offer the right evidence, know the laws and present the court with well-researched points and authorities proving to
the court that airplane-issued traffic tickets are illegal
speed traps under California law. Attorney Phillip Gillet
can provide you with representation that gives you the best position to beat your airplane-issued traffic ticket.
How much will it cost?
Basic traffic court representation: This includes: (1) a 10-minute phone consultation with Attorney
Gillet about your traffic ticket; (2) entering your not guilty pleading at the arraignment in writing(without you
having to go to court), and getting a traffic trial date set; (3) representing you at your traffic ticket trial and making
any motions to dismiss or settlements with the citing officer.
Shafter, Delano, Lamont, California $600.00
Taft, Mojave & Porterville, California $750.00
Tulare & Visalia, California
Most other California Courts $1,100.00
Add $250 to above prices for misdemeanor traffic offenses.
If you would like to have a full half-hour consultation with Attorney Gillet, please add $100 to the above