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February 24, 2004
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Georgia Police Close Loophole On Radar Guns; Speeders No Longer Get Off Easy

The Craig, Ga. Daily Press

Craig, Ga. Police Capt. Jerry DeLong walked into a conference room holding the answer to a supposed loophole that may allow speeders to get off easy.

It wasn''t a new answer. In fact, both the police department and the Moffat County, Ga. Sheriff''s Office have been using it all along.

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He was holding a radar gun and the two tuning forks that go with it.

DeLong and Sheriff Buddy Grinstead are convinced that speeding tickets written by their departments will be valid even if the tuning forks used to calibrate the radar guns have not been certified by a state agency.

The key is using two tuning forks instead of one.

Television news reports have publicized cases in which speeding tickets were thrown out because the department that wrote them did not submit the tuning forks to the Colorado Department of Agriculture for certification.

The Craig Police Department''s forks have been certified by the state. The sheriff''s office submits its forks for certification to a private company called Midwest Radar.

But Grinstead and DeLong said they could find no state statute requiring such certification. What they found was a precedent-setting Colorado Supreme Court case that gave them guidance. It''s a 1980 case called People v. Walker.

In that case, the court found that using a single, uncertified tuning fork to calibrate a radar gun "provides a legally insufficient foundation to support a reading taken from a radar device," according to court documents provided by the District Attorney''s office.

That''s where some people accused of speeding have found a way around their tickets, since some law enforcement agencies don''t submit their forks for state certification each year.

The Walker case, however, suggests an alternate, legally viable solution: use two tuning forks instead of one. Also, the two forks should emit different frequencies.

When officers calibrate radar gun, they strike a tuning fork and aim the radar gun at it. The gun is supposed to register a specific speed for a given fork. If agencies used two different tuning forks to calibrate a radar gun, it would provide evidence that the gun is accurate, the court found.

That scenario "would provide assurances that the radar device being field-tested was measuring accurately over a range of speeds rather than just at one point. In addition, such a rule provides greater assurances that the radar device is accurate because the result of each separate test serves to corroborate the results of the other," court documents state.

After their meeting, DeLong demonstrated the principle, using two tuning forks.

Grinstead and DeLong said radar guns that do not pass the two-fork test are sent back to the manufacturer.

Grinstead thinks the supposed loophole arose because the state is trying to raise money by requiring agencies to send in their forks for testing. The test has a $30 setup fee and costs $10 per fork.

"This is nothing more than the state trying to generate revenue for something that''s not required," Grinstead said.



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