Verify: Is a speeding ticket invalid if the state trooper isn't wearing a hat?

WUSA9 verifies if it's true that a speeding ticket is invalid if the state trooper isn't wearing a hat.

WASHINGTON (WUSA) - QUESTION:

  1. If a state trooper issues a ticket without wearing his or her hat, is the ticket invalid?
  2. Virginia highways have signs that say, "speeding enforced by aircraft." Does Virginia State Police have airplanes that give out speeding tickets?
  3. Can you drive above the speed limit without getting a ticket?

ANSWER:

  1. No, the ticket is 100 percent valid. 
  2. Yes, Virginia State Police have airplanes that look for speeding, reckless drivers, though they are costly to operate.
  3. Yes, even though going just one mile over the speed limit is breaking the law.

SOURCES:

Ron Snyder, Maryland State Police Spokesperson

Corrine Geller, Virginia State Police Spokesperson

Paul Starks, Montgomery County Police Spokesperson

Tyler Hunter, Prince George's County Police Spokesperson

Ashley Savage, Arlington County Police Spokesperson

Crystal Nosal, Alexandria City Police Spokesperson

Jonathan Perok, Prince William County Police Spokesperson

Margarita Mikhaylova, Metropolitan Police Spokesperson

PROCESS:

To verify whether a ticket is valid if a trooper is not wearing his or her hat, we asked Corrine Geller of Virginia State Police and Rob Snyder of Maryland State Police.

“The hat has no bearing on the validity of the ticket. It’s our department’s policy that a trooper must be wearing a hat when out of the building or making an arrest," Geller said. "But there’s nothing in state code that he must be wearing his hat when issuing a citation.” 

"Absolutely a ticket is valid as long as a trooper is acting within the parameters of his job, that is absolutely a valid ticket," Snyder said. "Never heard that question before--I can imagine there’s been urban legends passed around from time to time."

Geller also explained the "Speeding Enforced by Aircraft" signs, often seen on Commonwealth highways.

"[Aerial Speed Enforcement] is most effective in targeting the lane-surfing reckless driver, especially on the more heavily-traveled interstates where traffic is more concentrated. These drivers are the ones weaving in and out of traffic at high rates of speed and tailgating. The aerial vantage point makes it much easier for such vehicles to be spotted, speed checked and followed," Geller wrote.

Only fixed-wing aircraft are used for the Aerial Speed Enforcement operations. The cost to operate the aircraft, including fuel and maintenance, is approximately $150 per hour and missions can run for up to six hours.

Because of the hefty expense, the state hasn't run airplane speeding missions in several years.

Lastly, Verify checked with law enforcement in Alexandria, Arlington, Prince William, Prince George's, and Montgomery counties along with D.C. police about driving over the speed limit. All confirmed that a police officer can lawfully issue a ticket even if a driver is going just one mile over the limit. Officers would likely use their discretion and not issue a ticket, unless perhaps in a school zone or under icy conditions.

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© 2017 WUSA-TV


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