Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney
What most people refer to as a “speed trap” in Fairfax is a situation in which a highway or other road changes from one speed limit to a slower speed limit over a short distance. Police officers often use these situations to their advantage by sitting along the border of these two speed limits and issuing speeding tickets to anyone who doesn’t slow down in time. While this practice is legal under Virginia law, it is still likely in the best interest of those accused to consult with a Fairfax speeding ticket lawyer to challenge the ticket.
For the most part, speed traps are situations where the speed limit dips down, even though there is not an obvious change in the road.
Alternatively, there are also speed traps where the road only dips in speed temporarily. That could be, for example, a 70-miles-per-hour zone that dips down to a 65-miles-per-hour zone for only a period of, say, one mile. In that case, somebody who is going only slightly over the first speed limit could still be charged with a much more serious speeding offense if he or she is pulled over in the lower speed zone.
Some examples of other areas where there might be speed traps are school zones or residential zones that would require a lower speed and would feature a change in speed limit.
After there is a posted limit change, legally a person needs to attempt to slow down right where the sign is posted. The general rule of thumb that has been accepted in courthouses across Virginia is that the amount of time that it takes for someone to be able to safely slow their speed to come into compliance with the new speed limit is the simply the appropriate amount of time. So, someone is not required to slam on their brakes in order to adjust their speed, but they are required to quickly and safely adjust their speed down to the posted speed limit.
Ostensibly, speed traps are intended to keep areas safe. The posted speeds are decided on and voted on by the county, city, or community in order to provide the safest possible travel situations for drivers on those roads. Therefore speed traps are intended to encourage people to drive safely.
With that said, there are some speed limit changes where the road remains completely the same and drivers have no reason to expect a change in speed limit if they fail to see the sign. These are often targeted areas for law enforcement, and counties do receive a lot more revenue from speeding tickets issued in these zones. So, while some speed trap zones do serve a community safety purpose, the reality is that a lot of them don’t necessarily provide a safer space for driving. Instead, they mostly provide more revenue for the county or the state.
Being caught in a speed trap can affect the way that someone prepares for a case. The lawyer will want to know all of the specifics of the trap and of the stop. One important thing that needs to be determined is whether or not the driver was responsible for slowing down to that new speed at the point that he or she was pulled over, or whether the officer jumped the gun and caught the speed in an unreasonable fashion. Maybe the officer expected the person to be at a lower speed before it was safe or reasonable to do so.
When someone is driving in Fairfax and they are not sure what the speed limit is, the general rule of Fairfax driving is that there’s a 55-miles-per-hour maximum speed on highways, so unless it’s otherwise marked, 55 miles per hour is probably the appropriate speed.
It is also important to remember that just because other people are going a certain speed, does not necessarily mean that it is the speed limit. Everybody needs to be aware of the speed limit and should be on the lookout for speed limit signs and indicators that the speed limit is about to change. For example, construction signs, quick turns, a change in the roadway from a highway to a smaller road and other changing road conditions are all indicators that the speed limit may be about to change. To be aware of possible speed traps, a driver needs to be aware of their surroundings and anticipate the fact that there are going to be lower speeds, especially as they enter residential or school district areas.