speed trapsFor plenty of Arizonans who are pulled over for speeding, they may find themselves wondering whether the police officer in question appeared out of thin air. No, police officers do not have magic powers, but they do use speed traps to stealthily enforce the speed limits on Arizona roads and interstates.

What Is a Speed Trap?

Speed traps are a sort of catch-all term used to refer to a wide range of police tactics used to detect speeding in a stealthy manner. This could include police cars hiding obscurely off the side of the road or it could refer to the use of hidden cameras.

For motorists who are caught speeding by police as a result of these traps, the natural question is whether or not these traps are legally permissible. Here is what Arizona law has to say on the matter.

Are Speed Traps Legal in Arizona?

Whether speed traps are legal depends greatly on what a specific state’s laws say on the matter. Based on Arizona law, an officer hiding off the side of the road, for example, is likely a legal speed trap.

That said, Arizona has recently placed a heavy emphasis on questions surrounding the legality of using hidden cameras. In March of 2016, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich found that red light camera and speed camera companies have been violating the state’s private investigator statute.

Specifically, under Section 32-2401(16)(b) of the Arizona Revised Statutes, it is made clear that anyone other than a police officer who gathers evidence for use in a court trial must be a licensed investigator. Failure to obtain such a license is a Class One misdemeanor in the state.

Additional Speed Trap Issues and Legal Defenses

The short answer, then, as to the legality of speed traps is that it depends on the facts of the case. For example, if you have been caught by the ominous flash of a speed camera, know that the photo radar ticket mailed to you may not be legal. These Arizona cameras are operated by photo enforcement system contractors who are not identified in the list of persons specifically exempted from the private investigator license requirements outlined in Section 32-2401(16)(b).

This is not to say, however, that speed traps operated by a photo enforcement system contractor can never be legal. If these companies take the steps needed to obtain private investigator licensing for their employees, then the speed traps may well be legal. However, proving that a contractor had no private investigator license for a speed trap is an essential legal defense for avoiding a speeding conviction.

Other legal issues associated with photo radar ticketing systems include:

  • Right on red issues (the system may unfairly cite a driver for a non-threatening and merely technical violation when they do not come to a complete stop)
  • Inaccurate cameras based on poor calibration
  • Cameras have no real way to discern ambiguous results

There are subsequent legal issues that can be used to raise a speed trap defense as well. Arizona’s Rules of Civil Procedure state that traffic tickets must be properly served to an Arizona driver in order to be legally valid. Mailing a traffic ticket based on infractions caught by a photo radar system, then, is not sufficient to satisfy the service of process requirement.

In order to validate the ticket, Arizona authorities will request you to sign a waiver for your service of process, at which point you will mail the waiver back. If you have received a ticket in this manner, consult with an Arizona civil and criminal traffic violation lawyer who will advise you as to the best course of action.

Arizona drivers should take note of these issues and know that a ticket generated by a camera speed trap or law enforcement speed traps may not be legal. If you have reason to believe the speed trap that led to your civil or criminal ticket was in error, reach out to an Arizona traffic violation lawyer immediately.