Judge gives laser guns a boost in speeding case

May 17, 1994|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Sun Staff Writer

Boosting the claims of laser technology advocates, a Howard County Circuit Court judge found a Gaithersburg man guilty of speeding yesterday, but suggested that state legislators should authorize use of laser guns for traffic enforcement.

Judge Raymond Kane Jr. said he was convinced that the LTI 20 20 laser gun had been scientifically proved reliable even though state legislators haven't made its use by state and local police formal.

Judge Kane said the evidence provided in court last week was enough to convict David Goldstein, a Gaithersburg transportation consultant, of driving 74 mph in a 55 mph zone near U.S. 1 in Jessup on July 17, 1992.

Mr. Goldstein, who already had paid a $40 speeding fine -- reduced from $80 -- was out of state on business and did not attend the hearing yesterday, said his attorney, Kevin Reynolds.

His case is the first such trial to reach Maryland's Circuit Court. Mr. Goldstein appealed after being convicted of speeding and being fined in Howard District Court in April 1993.

"Every case helps continue the acceptance of the equipment," said Eric Miller, an engineer manager at Laser Technology Inc. in Englewood, Colo. Mr. Miller, who helped design the laser gun, said the use of the devices has been challenged in more than 120 court cases nationwide.

The laser technology may eventually replace police radar devices, the mainstay of speed enforcement, according to law enforcement officials.

Mr. Goldstein is being defended by the law firm of Annapolis lobbyist Bruce Bereano, who was paid $10,000 in 1993 to lobby for RADAR, an Ohio-based association of radar detector manufacturers.

Mr. Reynolds said his client will take his case to Maryland appellate courts. "There was no real impact on this ruling," said Mr. Reynolds.

Howard County prosecutor Shawn Larson said yesterday's decision will define many future challenges. "It gives a stamp of approval to the LTI 20 20," he said.

Defense witnesses testified last week that the laser gun's accuracy can be affected by weather or could track the wrong vehicle if an officer's aim is off.

A defense witness also noted that in 1992 and 1993, the General Assembly failed to pass legislation that would have authorized police use of laser guns.

Police officials contend that other speed monitoring techniques, such as air surveillance and road tracks that record the distance hTC and time of vehicles, have not been specifically authorized by lawmakers.

"For the people who get stopped for speeding, the judge's decision renews their faith in the Police Department," said Officer Bob Speed, a Baltimore County police radar instructor who sat in on yesterday's court hearing. "We don't want to be dragged into court for every speeding ticket."

Judge Kane said yesterday that the results of tests conducted by the Howard County Police Department and presented in court last week helped him decide. In those tests, the laser gun recorded the exact speed of vehicles 68 percent of the time and was within 1 mph of the correct speed 32 percent of the time, county police testified.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.