FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLET…
From Rootes Review
Vol. 5, #4, April 1980
by Alan Richard Simon
It started as a bad day… the guy rewelding the traction bars on my 1965 Tiger torched the carpet under the passenger’s seat and had the nerve to bill me $17.00 an hour – he paid for the damage, but that’s another story. That evening, I went to Scott Woerth’s to trade some parts for a “center-float” Holley set-up. The swap went well; we road tested my Tiger, Scott’s Honda Prelude and an old Hi-Pro-289 Mustang. I had called my wife and told her I was on the move (wasn’t I considerate), when Scott asked me if I wanted to see his latest projects. I left about half an hour later.
As I reached Route 283 to Harrisburg, I decided to: a) see how fast the Tiger would go, b) test the “center floats” and, c) try to make up the time I lost in Scott’s garage. With the top down to air out the burn smell (in spite of the evening chill), Fuzz Buster II on and CB full blast I attempted the Lancaster-Harrisburg land speed record. It was about midnight and there was little traffic as I hit 132 mph at over 4,000 rpm. I decided not to push it further due to an approximate 5,500 rpm redline and possible tach error. (My speedometer was tested later and it is a little slow at high speeds). In my high beams I saw a State Police car… I slowed …saw the Smokey exit the expressway …and floored it figuring they weren’t after me.
After about 15 minutes, I slowed down from my 110-120 mph average speed to a sedate 80 mph (my Tiger’s fiberglass fan flattens at speed and the engine overheats) when I saw a flashing red light in my rear view mirror about a mile away.
I pulled over figuring it was an ambulance (silly me). The cops wrote me up at 82 mph and told me they had been following (sic: trying to catch) me for almost 15 minutes. (Thanks good buddy for the CB help). The cops said if I hadn’t stopped they couldn’t have caught me. (The current state police cars only go 105 mph) and since they were not in hot pursuit, they wouldn’t have radioed ahead. Boy did I feel dumb. The cop had a Porsche and I challenged him to the next autocross for a driving lesson. And now the guts of the story–how I beat the ticket.
Fighting a speeding ticket is a professional blood sport – at stake is money, points and insurance rates. First I tried the fix – no luck. I had a friend, who had a friend, who used to know the JP – but they had a fight. Next I tried the cops -another friend had a relative who was a state police sergeant at the appropriate barracks, again no luck; tickets over 70 mph go to a special committee and the sergeant couldn’t pull it. After as many extensions from pleading as possible (the cops said they would file additional charges, i.e., driving faster then headlights, reckless driving, etc., if I fought the ticket) I pled not guilty and asked for a speedy trial because I thought the JP liked me after I told him of the cops intimidation attempts. The JP scheduled my trial 30 days later.
For my first defense though, I went to the highway department and checked the official maps to find out if the ticket had the wrong township (I was stopped 1/8 mile from the township line – and if you hold the map upside down you are in the wrong township which equals the wrong JP which equals no ticket – it didn’t work. Next I measured the distance from all of the exits on the expressway to the place I was stopped under the theory that for any known distance, if the cops said when they started to follow me and factored with the time they stopped me as per the ticket, you can determine the speed; (any error would produce outrageous speeds which are impossible and it was unlikely the cops would guess right) – the JP wasn’t impressed. Undaunted, I asked the cop to determine the length of several strings with cute little knots on the ends (the theory for this game is an error of six inches over a ten foot length is an error of several hundred yards when multiplied by a following distance of almost a mile); the JP said the cop didn’t have to play. At this point, I didn’t even introduce the Scientific American article about visual acuity and the difficulty of depth perception of the color red at night at high speed. My last hope was the “10 day rule” which required a trial in 10 days of pleading if done in person and there is no valid scheduling conflicts; the JP didn’t care. The cop said he wouldn’t have arrested me if I wasn’t guilty. I lost.
I appealed and told a friend at the DA’s office about the gross miscarriage of justice. The JP’s disregard for the “10 day rule” was unforgivable and after an “intense” investigation, the Assistant DA directed the JP to drop the charges and return my money (over $90.00). The JP refused. I had to formally appear before a real judge and my innocence was proclaimed in the local newspaper under the heading…”CITY MAN IS SENTENCED IN GAS STATION ROBBERY SHOOTING”.
Editor’s Note: Although Alan Simon is a Harrisburg attorney who reputably never lost a speeding case, all information contained in this article is intended for entertainment only and not as legal advice.