Notes on Speed Detection

Governor Lester Maddox was a professed segregationist who sold his Pickrick Cafeteria rather than serve black customers, but even he drew the line at speed traps. The town of Ludowici, Georgia, had become so notorious for operating a speed trap that Governor Maddox had billboards erected to the north and south of the town warning passing motorists to be wary of speed traps and clip joints, and he assigned state troopers to guard the signs. This was even covered by Time magazine.

You would think that speed enforcement would be an easy feat to accomplish. It seems pretty simple to assign a peace officer to go sit along a stretch of roadway with a speed detection device with that officer stopping and citing motorist that come along in excess of the speed limit. Well, as with most things government related, common sense and actual reality rarely meet, and this is no exception. There is one law that deals with the actual offense of speeding (40-6-181 O.C.G.A.). However, there are 17 separate state laws that deal with the operation of speed detection devices. If you are a student of history, you know that Lester Maddox was Governor of Georgia from 1967 through 1971. Most of these 17 code sections date back to 1968.

Among some of the requirements in the aforementioned state laws are the requirement for warning signs, visibility of the officer’s vehicle to approaching motorist, rules about where such devices may be used, testing devices for accuracy, etc, but perhaps the one that astounds the general public the most is a requirement that a county, city, or college/university agency have a permit from the state to operate speed detection devices. This permit does not give blanket authority to conduct speed detection throughout the agency’s jurisdiction. Specific streets must be listed on the permit along with their approved speed limit. If the speed limit is changed on a road, the permit for that stretch of road is rendered null and void until the process to have it changed on the speed permit is completed or the speed limit is put back to the limit listed on the permit. The speed permit comes up for renewal every three years, and making changes or additions to it is a very, very tedious process. Operating a speed detection device without the appropriate permit is a misdemeanor offense. The permit requirement does not apply to the Georgia State Patrol.

The requirements for operating speed detection equipment are found in 40-14-1 through 40-14-17 O.C.G.A. You can find the code sections online by clicking here.

I took a class a few years ago taught by a retired precinct commander from the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department. He told a story about taking over a precinct that had experienced numerous murders in the months preceding his getting the assignment. Keep in mind that Phoenix is broken up into eight precincts; so, this was multiple murders in just one precinct of the city in a short amount of time. The Commander told us that he met with community organizations upon taking over the precinct. The number one concern expressed to him was not the high murder rate. Each and every one of the community organizations wanted to know what he was going to do about speeding in their neighborhood.

The point of that story was to point out that speeding is a universal concern. We get more complaints about speeding than anything else, and I expect that a poll of agencies across the country would report likewise. The problem is, provided we have jumped all of the state’s hurdles to get a permit and your neighborhood is on the permit, that we really only have one tool to deal with speeders, and that is to write citations. If we come to an area to enforce the speed limits, we are going to catch people speeding, and this includes your spouse, your children, your neighbors, and maybe even you.

We would rather that people voluntary comply with the speed limits because when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. On the weekend of the first UGA game this year, three of our deputies set up a big, flashing sign warning that speed limits were being strictly enforced. Those three deputies then wrote 80 citations in six and a half hours with none of the citations being for less than 15 miles per hour over the limit including one written for 99 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone.


  1. If an agency violates a speed detection device code such as not being visible for 500 feet and it has been proven through photograph’s they clearly violated the code how can a judge still allow the radar as evidence? Are these codes supposed to be law or discretionary by judges? After searching the codes I was unable to find a code that specifies if it is acceptable to aim laser devices at the back of vehicles traveling away from you as they do while sitting on an overpass. Lastly. I know with certification of speed detection device training they must pass a test to visually estimate the speed of a vehicle within 2 mph and their visual estimate is admissible in lieu of the radar but where do you find out if part of their test for certification included estimating the speed of vehicles traveling away from them, vehicles they never observed coming towards them or viewed from the side?

    1. In Georgia, the state laws are referred to as the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA). Code = law.

      I’m not sure where you are getting the 2mph thing as that has not been taught in any speed detection course that I have attended.

      As for laws/code sections, they don’t spell out every little thing such as using lasers on a car traveling away from the officer. That type of thing would be hashed out in the scientific evidence of the operation of the device.

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