Is a speed trap legal in Vermont?

In order to determine the viability of a speed trap defense, one must first ask themselves, what is the legal definition of a Vermont speed trap.  A speed trap is defined as a speed limit that is unjustified based on specific factors set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association as well as the local Governor’s Highway Safety Program.  Based on the evaluation of engineers in these programs, local and state speed limits are set based on specific factors including the type of roadway, the visibility of drivers while on that specific stretch of roadway and population density.  It is the intent of these evaluations to reasonably limit the speed limit to ensure the safety of drivers and pedestrians alike.  If it is found that a Vermont speed limit sign was posted at a speed lower then what a study would conclude, then it could be defined as a “speed trap” and subject to attack at a Vermont traffic hearing.

However, providing that a speed limit is in fact not supported by NHTSA or GHSP is a difficult task.  Further, even if an argument can be made that the speed limit does not fit the defined criteria, once would also have to show what criteria that specific stretch of roadway would fit into and what an appropriate speed limit would be.  Most traffic judges will limit such an inquiry at trial, given that the purpose of the traffic court is to efficiently resolve cases, not allow for hours of testimony as to why a speed limit was in fact a speed trap.

One of the only real ways to implement change is to demand a study be conducted on the stretch of roadway by a NHTSA or GHSP engineer.  If this is conducted, the study itself could be considered a public record and could potentially be admissible in Court.  Certain stretches of road, especially on Vermont Route 100 may be subject to additional studies in the future and could be a key piece of evidence if a favorable result is concluded that will show that a speed limit is unreasonably low and thus is considered a speed trap.

 

 

The ultimate Vermont traffic ticket double whammy

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Its bad enough for a motorist to be put in handcuffs after being charged with excessive speed, a criminal offense that carries up to 90 days in prison and a suspension of one’s license.  However, what more and more motorists are seeing besides the citation to appear in a Vermont court, is that they are also facing a substantial civil infraction for the same offense, a penalty that could result in 8 or more points on one’s driving license and a fine nearing or exceeding $1,000.

There is a method of thinking behind law enforcements issuance of both the civil and criminal violations and it takes some significant digging to figure our exactly what they are looking for with regards to a resolution of the cases.  However, in many cases, prosecutors take a one, or the other mentality, where they are satisfied with a motorist pleading to one of the charges in exchange for them dismissing the other.  However, this determination if fact-specific and varies from case to case depending on a wide range of factors, such as one’s driving history, how they handled their interaction with police as well as other factors such as prior criminal convictions.

Thus, it is extremely important with excessive speed criminal charges and the accompanying civil charge, to contest them both so that a motorist can preserve their rights to negotiate a favorable deal at a later time once all the facts come to light.

Excessive Speed criminal charges in Vermont are no joke.  They come with serious financial penalties and the risk of having a criminal conviction on a motorists’ record for the rest of their life.  Thus, it is important to set forth a plan on how to deal with these charges early in the prosecution of the charge.  It may just set the motorist on a path far less detrimental then if they just succumb to law enforcement’s suggested punishment.