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Police officers in Washington State, during a traffic stop for speeding, will often tell the driver that they paced the driver.  What does the word “pace” mean?  Most people assume that police officers are trained and required to conduct a “pace” in a very specific and accurate manner.  That is not the case. In our 12 years practicing law, the attorneys at the Law Office of Michael D. Sheehan Officers have learned that police officers will use the word “pace”, both when speaking with drivers and testifying in court, to describe a wide variety of techniques.  Unfortunately, the law in Washington State does not protect drivers from sloppy or even dishonest police work.  Nothing prevents a police officer from using the word “pace” whenever it is convenient or beneficial for the officer.

Our law office just recently represented a client charged with the crime of Reckless Driving in King County.  The only evidence against our client was the police officer’s accusation that the officer had followed our client and “paced” our client at “85-95 miles per hour”.  However, in the officer’s sworn police report, the officer admitted that he never got within 300 yards of our client’s vehicle!  Fortunately, our office was able to convince the prosecuting attorney to dismiss all criminal charges against our client, as the prosecutor recognized that the police officer never actually “paced” our client.

An actual and accurate “pace” by a police officer requires that the officer take several steps.  First, the police officer should follow the target vehicle from behind.  Believe it or not, there are officers who have claimed that they conducted a “pace” while in front of the target vehicle!  Obviously, this technique is not likely to give a police officer an accurate measurement of the target vehicle’s speed.

Second, the police officer should be close enough to the target vehicle to maintain a constant distance while following that vehicle.  Officers have testified in some of our cases that they maintained a following distance of “approximately” so many feet, yards or car-lengths.  If the judge or jury listened carefully to this testimony, they could tell that the police officer was not close enough to the target vehicle to obtain an accurate and reliable “pace”.  Our client’s Reckless Driving case described above is a good example of this scenario.  It is simply not possible for an officer to obtain an accurate “pace” when the target vehicle is 300 yards away.

Finally, the police officer, who must rely on the accuracy of the patrol-car speedometer to conduct a “pace”, should make sure that the patrol-car speedometer has been recently tested for accuracy. Otherwise, the officer has no business relying upon that speedometer to conduct a “pace.”  Fortunately for drivers, the law in Washington State does require a police officer to show that the speedometer relied upon by the office during a “pace” had been recently tested for accuracy.

In the past 12 years the attorneys at the Law Office of Michael D. Sheehan have learned a great deal about the “pacing” of motor vehicles by police officers.  Put our knowledge of police techniques and tactics to work for you.  Contact us today to fight your Washington speeding ticket.

If you would like to hire Mr. Sheehan to fight your traffic infraction or criminal traffic charge, please click here: whattodo.html

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