One of my favorite pastimes when I have nothing better to do is running radar and hauling our area’s worst speeders into court. I really love my radar, and coupled with my unmarked cruiser, it often provides more fun and entertainment that one guy should be able to have.
Adding to the fun is the fact that my state is one of the very few that still outlaws radar detectors. So when I get the chance to ding a speeder with radar AND find out that he has a radar detector to boot, giving me another charge to bop him with… well it just makes my day.
So how do I find the radar detector violators? Well without giving away too many of my trade secrets, let me state that it’s usually very, very easy.
First of all, there are people like this kid I was behind not too long ago. He had it mounted right up on his dashboard where I and everyone else could see it. Since part of the requirement for the charge of possession/use of a radar detector requires us to prove that it’s being used at the time, I slid my car into a slot two cars back and one lane over from the kid and switched my radar on for a second. I saw his detector light up and he slammed on his brakes. He then began looking around to see where the police car might be, but alas, he was only looking up ahead of his car. He didn’t bother looking over his shoulder. After a few moments, he relaxed a bit, so I turned it on again. Once more, I saw his detector light up and he slammed on his brakes and began scanning ahead of him for the police. As this was fun for me, I did it a few more times over the next mile or so before finally sliding in behind him, making the traffic stop, and seizing the radar detector from him. He was actually angry that I had an unmarked car, and his defense to the detector was—as usual—that he lives in the nearby adjoining state where there are legal, and that our laws therefore do not apply to him.
Yeah, ok. Sign here, please. One more radar detector added to the pile of them in our evidence room.
But usually they aren’t so blatant about it. Usually I get them because the person using it tells on themselves by reflexively slamming on the brakes the moment I activate the radar. That’s what we in law enforcement call a “clue”. And if I radar three cars and one of them immediately panic-brakes, guess which one I’m stopping?
Oftentimes, these folks will try to snatch the detector off the dashboard or window mount and hide it really quick. But that doesn’t work too well when they leave the suction-cup mount stuck on the window (like I don’t know what that’s for) or when they’re in such a hurry to hide it that they forget to turn it off or unplug it and I can hear it chirping away from under the seat, under the hat which was just tossed over it, or inside the center console, warning them of the proximity of the police radar unit in the cruiser now parked right behind their car.
But then we have the real dumb ones, like the guy I stopped one day. As I walked up to him, he immediately began to challenge me, telling me that there’s no way that I could stop him for speeding because his radar detector didn’t go off, which means that I wasn’t using radar, and that I wasn’t behind him long enough to pace him.
Well gee, it’s nice to encounter a citizen who has some knowledge of our procedures. Too bad he wasn’t smart enough to figure out that maybe I was stopping him for something else…like his burnt-out tail light. But now that we’ve discussed that tail light, sir…how about you hand me that radar detector now?
But dumb comes in many strengths, and the dumbest one that I can recall was the kid that I stopped one night because he panic-braked when I radar’d him, and I knew that there was no way that he could have seen my cruiser based on the darkness, distance and location. He was speeding, but he really wasn’t going fast enough for me to have bothered with otherwise, however I smelled the detector and I wanted it so I stopped him.
When I walked up to him, there was no detector in sight. But there on his windshield was the mount for one. I told him to hand me his license, registration and radar detector, and he immediately denied having the detector. I explained why I knew he had one—including his driving behavior and the mount affixed to his windshield—and told him that I’d rather he just handed it over instead of making me search the car for it. He replied that I could not search his car without a warrant or his consent, and rather haughtily told me that he was a law student at local university. Well I just couldn’t let the opportunity to give a little real-life lesson in the concept of “probable cause” pass by, so I stepped him out of the car, listened to his protestations and his promise of retribution in the form of a lawsuit as I secured him in my cruiser for the time being, and proceeded to search for the detector that I had determined was probably in his car. I had to look no further than his center console to find the detector…and a bag of marijuana and two pipes. The brilliant law student had hidden the radar detector right on top of his stash. He wound up getting fifteen days in jail for that, all courtesy of a radar detector and an “I’m smarter than you” attitude.
Man, I love this job.
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