You’re on the side of the road, an officer has explained that his radar detected you were driving over the speed limit…can you ask to see the radar?
The short answer is that you can ask, but officers are under no obligation to oblige.
It is a common misconception that law enforcement officials have to show drivers the actual radar in order for the ticket to stand in court.
The misconception is perpetuated by judges who often ask defendants in court if the officer presented the radar for viewing during a traffic stop or from what distance the vehicle was visible. This happens most often in municipal courts.
So, what does Georgia law actually say?
First, state law says a stationary vehicle with the radar must be visible from 500 feet away. There’s nothing that says an officer has to prove this to you on the roadside, but in court, they’d certainly have to prove as much to the court, if challenged. Likewise, there is no legal requirement for law enforcement officials to show you the readings from the radar on demand.
Additionally, most agencies do not have policies that mandate that officers show radar readings, a decision that is rooted in both officer and motorist safety. Many radars are mounted in or on the vehicle, which would require that a driver exit their vehicle and return to the patrol car to view the reading.
What you are entitled to is an accuracy check during the traffic stop and before a ticket is written. OCGA 40-14-5 requires officers to inform motorists of their right to request the officer test the radar device for accuracy prior to the issuance of the citation. This is most often done using tuning forks. In the event the radar device does not meet the minimum accuracy requirements, the citation is not issued (or, should not be issued) and the radar is removed from service.
A 1991 opinion from the state attorney general stated that “[the law] requires each county, municipal, or campus law enforcement officer making cases by use of radar to advise a citizen, prior to issuance of a citation, of the right to a test of the device for accuracy and that the officer must, upon request, perform such a test; however, the officer is not required by law to permit the citizen access to the patrol vehicle in order to witness the officer conducting the test.”
State law also requires that speed detection devices undergo accuracy checks at the beginning and end of any shift in which a radar is used. You have the right to file an Open Records Request in order to obtain copies of those records as well as any internal documentation which reflects on which roadways the agency is permitted to run radar.
Nothing in this article should be construed to be legal advice.