Thursday, September 12, 2013
Milwaukie, Oregon: A Notorious Speed Trap
Yesterday, I returned to the scene – 47 mph in a 30 mph zone. Why? Don’t offenders always return to the scene of the crime?
Two days ago, I received a kind of formal looking letter from the Milwaukie, Oregon Police Department. And, no, they were not asking for my assistance on a case.
The letter began: “In an effort to improve traffic safety and community livability, the Milwaukie Police Department has implemented an automated speed enforcement program called photo radar to monitor vehicle speeds on streets and roadways within the city.” They enclosed a grainy picture. Yes, it was me. I had a very serious look on my face, and both hands were on the steering-wheel. In my defense, it looked like I was extremely intent on my driving.
The offense took place on McLoughlin Blvd., which was originally the old Highway 99E, two and three lanes each way. So, it wasn’t like I was ripping through a residential area. The fine was $160. Wow! The posted speed limit, going South on McLoughlin drops from 45 to 30 when you enter Milwaukie. However, the highway in Milwaukie is not distinctively different from the highway north of or south of that city’s jurisdiction. In other words, you’re driving along, minding your own business, and bingo you failed to note the 30 mph sign. The Milwaukie Police photo surveillance van is waiting for you.
I’m kind of old fashioned about these issues. This whole process is so impersonal, more focused on collecting revenue than enforcing safety. The citation was not actually issued until five days after the alleged violation happened, and then the citation was a couple of days in the mail. I suppose there were so many citations that it takes a while for the automated system to work. In the ‘old days,’ the officer personally issued a ticket after listening patiently to a usually pathetic excuse from the driver. At least there was some interaction with law enforcement, and everything was handled in a timely manner. The officer usually commented that ‘you should have a nice day, and to please drive carefully.’ You felt reprimanded, but in a nice way. At least I think so – depends on whether or not he had a smirk on his face when he said it.
I did sign a ‘no contest’ on the aforementioned citation and sent in my check. How does one contest a traffic violation several days past, when he can’t remember what he had for breakfast that morning? Surprisingly, I did have an agenda the day of the offense, and an appointment. The time of the appointment and the appointment’s location would have made it practically impossible for me to be at the point cited in the ticket at the stated time. However, the citation is carefully worded, indicating the time is ‘approximate.’ However, there is no indication that my speed at the time was approximate. Apparently, time is a somewhat insignificant variable; but the radar is very precise about the exact speed. OK. I’m glad that photo radar has now achieved perfection, even though it is continuing to struggle with keeping time.
Coincidentally, there was a relevant article in the Oregonian yesterday: ‘Well-Known Lawyer Takes Ticket to Court.’ Prominent Defense Attorney, Mark Cogan had his ticket thrown out. He was cited at the exact same location where I was, but months back, for going 45 mph. He went to trial and ultimately won. On what basis might you ask? Well, the prosecutor never asked the police officer in charge of the photo radar what the speed limit was when the violation occurred. In other words, the prosecutor did not put forth the proper foundation for the violation. He did not say that Cogan was driving 45 mph in a 30 mph zone. A bit of a technicality I admit, but that is what attorneys do. It doesn’t even sound like Mr. Cogan represented himself. He apparently had another attorney handle it. Obviously, Mr. Cogan has some philosophical differences with the photo radar system, because he spent far more money defending himself than the price of the ticket.
Well, under the circumstances, I could not afford to hire an attorney. So, I considered representing myself. I had some relevant points to make, including: Why does it take almost a week from the time of the infraction to actually issue and mail the ticket? When was the last time the photo radar system was calibrated? What about the time indicated on the ticket? But, I decided against that idea. Thinking, perhaps, the magistrate would consider me something of a ‘smart-ass,’ wasting his or her time, and double my fine.
I will just conclude with a quote from the Oregonian article referred to above: “That stretch of highway is a notorious speed trap.” So, I guess we might say that Good-ole-boy, Alabama, population 250, has nothing over our very own Milwaukie. Drivers, don’t say that we didn’t warn you.