By John Dodge
Posting in Technology
The LIDAR gun has replaced radar to catch speeders in many states and despite its reputation for high accuracy, some traffic courts still reject it. Is that silly or justifiably cautious?
When consumers embrace technology, they vote with their pocketbooks. For technology to be accepted in court, however, the bar is set much higher.
Just ask officers in the Chicago Police Dept. who use LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) lasers to catch speeders. Some judges in Chicago traffic courts are throwing out speeding tickets based on LIDAR because they are not legally admissible in court, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune.
While I rarely agree the those setting the speed traps, the ticket trashing in Chicago seems somewhat bogus given LIDAR's reputation for being "extremely accurate." Apparently, LIDAR in Chicago has not undergone a so-called "Frye Test," the 86-year-old standard to vet scientific evidence produced for the courts.
The Frye Test arose out admitting polygraph evidence and according to Wikipedia has been "superceded" by the Daubert Standard which modernized the rules by which scientific evidence and testimony can be accepted or rejected. While the Supreme Court has blessed the Daubert Standard, half the states in the Union including Illinois still require the Frye Test which which is both "laborius and expensive (I wonder why one Frye Test wouldn't cover LIDAR for all 50 states.)"
We've been down this road before. It took years before e-mail was blessed as admissible evidence. The same standard holds for the software tools used by data forensics investigators who present their findings in court and litigation.
I am no expert about what scientific or technology-driven evidence should be admissible in court, but suspect that with the rise of social networks, texting, computers and cell phones, new forms and sources of evidence must be coming at the courts through a fire hose. Indeed, data forensics experts are now targeting cell phones which leave a trail of evidence like you never imagined.
What's admissible is hardly cut and dried, though. As with all court proceedings, a lot depends on the presiding judge.
“How do you explain to a judge who doesn’t use a computer what free, slack or unallocated space is? You have to write a report everyone can understand,” says John Dodge, director of Business Risk Services for the New York accounting firm of Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP. I spoke with Dodge recently for a story I did on data forensic (that he has the same name as me is pure coincidence).
The same holds for speeders in Illinois: some judges accept the evidence from LIDAR while others seemingly follow the letter of the law and reject it pending a Frye test. Meanwhile, some lucky speeders are getting a break.
Follow me on Twitter.
Nov 11, 2009