Illinois Appellate Court Issues Opinion on Admissibility of Radar Device Reading

Author: Dave Noland
In April 2018, the Illinois Second District Appellate Court decided an appeal raised by a defendant motorist arising from a speeding ticket in Algonquin. The trial court found defendant guilty of the charge of speeding as set forth in the Village’s municipal code. The Village’s municipal code adopts, by reference, the Illinois Vehicle Code.

In the case of The Village of Algonquin v. Mark E Sato, the defendant raised two issues: (1) that because the Village did not introduce evidence demonstrating compliance with the requirement of an engineering survey, it failed to meet its burden; and (2) that there was no evidence that the tuning forks used had been independently tested for accuracy of the radar.

First, the defendant contended that the speeding charge was unenforceable based on the Village’s failure to present a traffic engineering survey as required by the Code of Federal Regulations and the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s finding that it is not the Village’s burden to demonstrate compliance with the Code’s requirements. The Court cited a recent 1st District case, Village of Mount Prospect v. Kurtev, in which that Court held that it is a defendant’s burden to introduce evidence that the Village failed to comply with applicable regulations. Therefore, to raise the defense, the defendant was required to introduce evidence that the Village failed to comply with the Code requirement of attaining an engineering survey.

Second, the defendant challenged long-standing Illinois law regarding admissibility of police radar. Illinois case law has previously held that radar evidence is admissible in a speeding case where the arresting officer tests the radar with a single tuning fork immediately before the stop and after the stop. People v. Abdallah, 82 Ill. App. 2d 312 (1967). In this recent case, the arresting officer tested the radar before and after he stopped the defendant. The defendant cited case law from other states calling for proof that the tuning forks used to test the radar be independently tested and certified for accuracy. In this case, the Court held that “the key consideration is that [the officer] used two tuning forks, set at different speeds.” Testing the radar with two or more tuning forks set to different speeds allows each test to corroborate the other and minimizes the likelihood of unreliable results. In further support of upholding Illinois precedent, the Court found that in those courts that rejected reliance on a test with a single uncalibrated tuning fork, testing with two or more tuning forks was endorsed, even without independent evidence of their accuracy.

The Court’s holding provides guidance that it is the defendant’s burden of proof in raising the defense that a municipality failed to comply with Code provisions. In addition, that long-standing court precedent regarding testing of radar with a single tuning fork remains Illinois law, and further that the use of two tuning forks in connection with radar is sufficient in itself to prove speeding.

Author: Dave Noland