Notable Case Law
Below are ten significant case law examples which pertain to the use of
radar in speed enforcement by police departments. The first two deal
primarily with the reliability and accuracy of radar and the next six
all deal with the various aspects of police officer training and field
testing of the radar units. The last two cases specifically address the
K-55 model radar gun by M.P.H. Industries, Inc. of Chanute, Kansas.
State of Florida v. Aquilera (1979)
This infamous case is known widely as the Miami Radar Trial. After a
local television reporter showed a house clocked at 28 mph and a palm
tree clocked at 86 mph, the story broke nationwide and radar was quickly
shown to be less than accurate. In this case the Dade County Court
sustained a motion to suppress the results of radar units in 80 speeding
ticket cases. The court's opinion stated that the reliability of radar
speed measuring devices as used in their present modes and particularly
in some cases, has not been established beyond and to the exclusion of
every reasonable doubt, nor has it met the test of reasonable scientific
United States v. Fields (1982)
The District Court in Ohio ruled that it was not possible to establish
from the radar results whether the defendant was traveling at 43 mph or
whether the Speedgun 8 radar unit was measuring the rotation of the
ventilation fan at the sewage pumping station next to the officer's car.
The court also found that the officer was not qualified to operate the
radar unit since he did not know the requirements for correct operation
of the unit. In addition, the officer did not calibrate it before use,
on that occasion.
Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Honeycutt (1966)
This case is a very common prosecution weapon against the 24 hours of
classroom and 16 hours of field training requirement. In this case the
court ruled that an officer should not be required to know the
scientific principles of radar. The court also ruled that the officer
only needs to know how to properly set up, test and read the radar unit.
As such, a few hours of instruction should be enough to qualify an
officer to operate the radar unit.
State of Connecticut v. Tomanelli (1966)
In the case, which is the same year as the Honeycutt case, the Supreme
Court of Connecticut ruled that "outside influences may affect the
accuracy of the recording by a police radar set sufficient to raise a
doubt as to the reliability of the speed recorded." The court also
stated that tuning forks must be proved to be accurate to be accepted as
valid tests of a radar unit. In order to establish the accuracy of the
radar unit the operator must testify to the following:
1. That he made tuning fork tests before and after the defendant's speed
2. That the tests were made by activating 40, 60 and 80 mph tuning forks
and by observing that the unit responded correctly in each case.
State of Minnesota v. Gerdes (1971)
The Supreme Court of Minnesota ruled that where the only means of
testing the accuracy of a radar unit is an internal mechanism within the
unit, and there is no other evidence of the motorist's speed other than
the radar reading, the conviction cannot be sustained. The court also
established the following conditions for proving the accuracy of the
1. The officer must have adequate training and experience in the
operation of the radar unit.
2. The officer must testify as to how the unit was set up and the
conditions the unit was operated under.
3. It must be proven that the unit was operated with a minimum
possibility of distortion from external interference.
4. The unit has to be tested with an external source, such as a tuning
fork or an actual test run with another vehicle with an accurately
People of New York v. Perlman (1977)
The Suffolk County District Court ruled that the radar device was not
proved to be accurate since no external test had been performed before
or after the arrest. This case is significant since it established the
criteria of testing before and after a citation is issued.
State of Wisconsin v. Hanson (1978)
In this landmark case, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin set minimum
conditions for the use of radar as evidence. Sufficient evidence to
support a speeding conviction with moving radar will require testimony
by a competent operating officer that:
1. He had adequate training and experience in radar operation
2. The radar unit was in proper working condition at the time of the
3. The radar unit was used in an area where there was a minimum
possibility of distortion
4. The input speed of the officer's car was verified, the car's
speedometer was expertly tested
within a reasonable period after the citation was issued
5. All testing was done without the radar unit's own internal
calibration device being used
State of Florida v. Allweiss (1980)
The Pinellas County Court ruled that the testing methods for radar
equipment are legally insufficient. "The use of such a tuning fork
furnished by the manufacturer in this court's opinion is tantamount to
allowing the machine to test itself. A tuning fork furnished by the
manufacturer is merely an extension and part of the total speed
measuring apparatus that is furnished by the manufacturer upon delivery.
State of Delaware v. Edwards (1980)
The court found that evidence based solely on the reading from a K-55
moving radar unit was not sufficient for a conviction because the unit
was not proven to be reliable.
State of Ohio v. Oberhaus (1983)
The court sustained a motion to suppress the results of a K-55 moving
radar unit. The court went on to rule that the K-55 unit was only
acceptable in the stationary mode.