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In a 2001 decision, the Washington Supreme Court held that a certificate authenticating a radar speed measuring device need not be prepared by a police officer to be admissible in a contested hearing on a traffic infraction. The case, City of Bellevue v. Hellenthal, 144 Wn.2d 425 (2001), involved two women who were issued traffic citations for speeding after their vehicles were photographed by a radar gun.

The women challenged the admissibility of the radar evidence, arguing that the certificates authenticating the radar guns were not admissible because they were not prepared by police officers. The trial court agreed, and dismissed the citations.

The city appealed to the Washington Supreme Court, arguing that the certificates were admissible because they were prepared by a qualified radar expert. The court agreed, holding that the certificates were admissible under IRLJ 6.6(b), which provides that “the results of a speed measurement obtained by radar may be admitted in evidence if the device is properly calibrated and the operator is qualified.”

The court reasoned that the purpose of IRLJ 6.6(b) is to ensure the reliability of radar speed measuring devices, and that the qualifications of the person who prepares the certificate are not relevant to that purpose. The court also noted that the women had not challenged the qualifications of the radar expert who prepared the certificates.

Key takeaways:

  • Radar speed measuring device certificates are admissible in Washington state even if they are not prepared by police officers.
  • The admissibility of the certificates is based on the reliability of the radar device and the qualifications of the operator.
  • The decision in City of Bellevue v. Hellenthal has implications for other states with similar rules regarding the admissibility of radar speed measuring device evidence.

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City of Bellevue v. Hellenthal, 144 Wn.2d 425