Where Are You Going In Such A Hurry? Police Interaction, Part XIII

What to say when a police officer asks, “Where Are You Going In Such A Hurry?”

By Benjamin A. Tracy, Columbus Criminal Defense Lawyer and Civil Rights Attorney

This is the thirteenth part in a series of posts about what legal obligations you have when you interact with the police.

Situation 13

You’ve late for a very important meeting.  So you’re speeding, going more than double the speed limit when suddenly, a siren blares behind you.  You glance in the mirror and see an officer motioning for you to pull-over.  You do.  The officer approaches and says, “Where are you going in such a hurry, sir?”

You might wonder what to say.

The BEST answer:  Have your license and registration out and ready.  Offer them to the officer politely but without answering his question.

The WRONG reaction:  I know, I’m sorry.  I’m late for a meeting

The EXCEPTIONALLY WRONG reaction:  I wasn’t speeding.  Let me see the radar read-out.

As a preliminary matter, if you drive at double the speed limit, you are facing a relatively serious traffic ticket if not something more.  That is, exceeding the speed limit by more than 30mph in Ohio is a “four-point” violation and exceeding the speed limit by a very large amount may provide a basis for charging you with other offenses like “Operation in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property” – a minor misdemeanor.

Since you know full-well you have committed the violation, it is best to adopt a conciliatory attitude.  Thus, the BEST answer recognizes that you should have your license and registration out and ready to go.  This will show the police officer you are going to have a good attitude about the traffic stop.  However, the BEST answer also recognizes that it is a good idea not to say anything substantive at this point – i.e., do not answer his question about where you were going in such a hurry.

The WRONG reaction, and one which is very common, is to apologize and offer an excuse.  This is a problem for two reasons:  First, unless a loved-one is in the hospital in critical condition or something of equal seriousness, almost no police officer is going to consider your excuse a good enough reason to be speeding.

Instead, it will just look like you are trying to make up justifications for conduct that the officer has already shown (by pulling you over) that he is not happy about.  Moreover, speeding statutes lack what lawyers call an “intent requirement.”  That is, if you are speeding, you are guilty of speeding.  It does not matter why you are speeding or even if you are aware that you are speeding.  So, unless a family member is in dire danger (in which case you should explain and ask the officer for an escort) you should not offer excuses.

They are irrelevant and they may annoy the officer.  The second problem with the WRONG reaction is an apology looks, particularly in this case, like you are admitting to speeding.  While both you and the officer in this case know perfectly well that you were speeding, you should not admit it.  Ohio law does not allow an officer to make an “unaided visual estimation of the speed of a motor vehicle” the basis of a speeding charge.

That is, if you happened to go blazing by the officer while he was drowsing and he did not activate his radar or laser or use some sort of timing device, it is possible that the speeding charge will not “stick” in the end.  But if you admit you were speeding, now the case is just that much easier for the prosecution to prove.

The EXCEPTIONALLY WRONG reaction also has two serious flaws:  The first mistake is to deny that you were speeding.  In this case, it is obviously a lie, it will not help you, and the police officer will not appreciate it.  You may remember from prior blog posts the golden rule: Never lie to the police but do not confess crimes to them either.

Since you cannot truthfully deny speeding to the officer, do not say anything about it at all.  The second mistake made here is a very prevalent myth.  That is, for some reason, popular belief seems to be that a police officer who pulls you over in Ohio has to show you the radar gun.  There is no such requirement.

A police officer cannot use “unaided visual estimation of the speed of a motor vehicle” but that does not mean he has to show you, at the scene of the ticket, the equipment he used to decide you were speeding.  If you want to challenge the method by which he calculated your speed, hire an attorney and come to court on the date listed on the ticket.  Do not try to play lawyer at the side of the road.  It will get you nowhere except on the officer’s bad side.

If you are under investigation, or have been arrested by any law enforcement agency, feel free to contact one of our experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys, for a free initial consultation about your legal rights and possible defenses.