Tuning fork calibration certificates not required at trial?

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Latest post Wed, Jul 20 2011 1:09 PM by Potatoland Mom. 7 replies.
  • Thu, Nov 27 2008 3:03 PM

    Feedback [*=*] Tuning fork calibration certificates not required at trial?

    I got convicted of speeding 74 in a 65 in the great state of Idaho. The interesting thing is that to my understanding, if requested at trial the state has to produce a tuning fork calibration certificate proving that the tuning forks of the radar gun were properly calibrated and in working order to a legal degree of certainty. Also if I request to see the radar log book showing a check before and after the arrest with the tuning forks, that would need to be presented as well. In my case I was told by the magistrate that the officer's word is good enough that the tuning forks were in working order and no documentation is required whatsoever at trial. This goes against many states which have separate rulings that specifically address this issue. How can the prosecution lay foundation to their evidence without any documentation whatsoever?

    Do I have any grounds for an appeal, since I was denied the production of ANY documentation whatsoever?

    In Scott White v. Commonwealth of VA. Feb. 2000

    The state supreme court ruled that the court erred in denying the production of the tuning fork certification document.
  • Fri, Nov 28 2008 11:03 AM In reply to

    re: Tuning fork calibration certificates not required at trial?

    You apparently went into court with an "understanding" and not "knowledge".

    You can certainly file an appeal. Nothing prevents you from doing that.

    Whether you can win it depends on how the Idaho Court of Appeals views the situation.

    Idaho does not have to follow the rulings of other states.

    In fact, the following Idaho Court of Appeals decision appears to shoot down your "understanding".

    http://www.isc.idaho.gov/opinions/william.pdf
    • The right of the people 
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    • shall not be infringed.
  • Fri, Nov 28 2008 11:33 AM In reply to

    Feedback [*=*] re: Tuning fork calibration certificates not required at trial?

    The first thing you need to know here is that the law of other states doesn't matter as the law of other states doesn't apply in ID. So a VA court opinion discussing VA law is not very helpful to you. You need to research ID law on the subject, and it may well be that ID does not have that kind of specific requirement to produce calibration certificates.

    "How can the prosecution lay foundation to their evidence without any documentation whatsoever?"

    Testimony is evidence. For some reason, perhaps because of shows like CSI, many in the public seem to think that physical evidence or documents are always required for a conviction, and that's simply not the case. The prosecution could elicit testimony from the cop that he properly calibrated the machine. The foundation for that would be questions asking the cop about his knowledge of the radar machine and what the calibration requirements were. If the prosecution failed to lay a good foundation, did you object to the lack of foundation at trial? If not, you've likely lost that as an appeal issue.

    "Do I have any grounds for an appeal, since I was denied the production of ANY documentation whatsoever?"

    Unless ID law specifically requires that the state produce some kind of calibration documentation AND you properly raised that issue in the trial to preserve it for appeal, this issue may not be a good basis for appeal.

    Representing yourself at trial probably wasn't your best idea. Appeals are also not good do-it-yourself projects, and I suggest you contact an attorney familiar with criminal appeals in ID for assistance.
  • Fri, Nov 28 2008 12:11 PM In reply to

    re: Tuning fork calibration certificates not required at trial?

    A Virginia case has no bearing on what happens in an Idaho court.

    You don't say where you came by your "understanding" that the state has to do these things.

    In the absence of a proper discovery request or request to produce the documentation at trial, the state likely had no obligation to do so. The officer's testimony that the radar unit was properly calibrated and in working order likely was sufficient.

    If you can find an Idaho case that says that you can rely on this sort of silly technicality, then you might have a basis for an appeal. Otherwise, I doubt it.
  • Fri, Nov 28 2008 5:28 PM In reply to

    • Ford
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    Feedback [*=*] re: Tuning fork calibration certificates not required at trial?

    Idaho has very little case law. Foundational requirements are state specific.

    I think this is kind of an unresolved question. Kind of.

    State v. Kane, 122 Idaho 623 (Ct. App 1992) was a challenge to the scientific reliability of radar devices, where the COA took judicial notice of the reliability. This wasn't a foundation case.

    State v. Williamson, ___ Idaho ___, 166 P.3d 387 (Ct. App. 2007), is the ONLY case that cites to Kane. I'm thinking those are the only cases that deal with this issue.

    Williamson is about laser devices, and also about general reliability, but then goes into foundation. The COA sets out the rule that: "As with radar devices, we conclude that, when a laser device is used to determine a defendant is driving in excess of the maximum speed limit, the proper use and accuracy of the device in question must be established by the state in order to introduce the evidence at trial. See Kane, 122 Idaho at 624-25, 836 P.2d at 570-71. Therefore, in each speeding prosecution that seeks to introduce laser evidence, the state must prove that the officer was qualified to operate the device, that the unit was properly maintained, and that it was used correctly. See id."

    Substitute 'radar evidence' in that last sentence and you have the rule of law.

    That rule is governed by:

    "The decision whether to admit evidence at trial is generally within the province of the trial court. A trial court's determination that evidence is supported by a proper foundation is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. State v. Gilpin, 132 Idaho 643, 646, 977 P.2d 905, 908 (Ct.App.1999). Therefore, a trial court's determination as to the admission of evidence at trial will only be reversed where there has been an abuse of that discretion. State v. Zimmerman, 121 Idaho 971, 973-74, 829 P.2d 861, 863-64 (1992). When a trial court's discretionary decision is reviewed on appeal, the appellate court conducts a multi-tiered inquiry to determine: (1) whether the lower court correctly perceived the issue as one of discretion; (2) whether the lower court acted within the boundaries of such discretion and consistently with any legal standards applicable to the specific choices before it; and (3) whether the lower court reached its decision by an exercise of reason. State v. Hedger, 115 Idaho 598, 600, 768 P.2d 1331, 1333 (1989)."

    Unless a state sets out a statutory or administrative rule for calibrations of devices, you usually need an expert to challenge the state's expert (cop) on these issues.

    Pursuant to Idaho Code 49-1502, the Rules of Evidence appear applicable to infraction matters. Given that, an objection should lie where an officer testifies about someone else calibrating a radar device. In Williamson it appears the officer testified that the city shop had calibrated the device. That would appear to be outside his personal knowledge and subject to objection.
  • Wed, Jul 20 2011 11:10 AM In reply to

    Re: Tuning fork calibration certificates not required at trial?

    None of this will help you in an Idaho traffic court!  I went well prepared with my defense with case law of State of Idaho v. Williamson in hand to try and get my case dismissed.  Wrong!  The problem with this case law which references State v. Kane is that it does not say that written documentation is required (as is specifically stated in other states' case laws).  It only requires that "the state must prove that the officer was qualified to operate the device, that the unit was properly maintained, and that it was used correctly."  For all of these requirements, officer testimony will suffice.  The officers are not required to log in their daily checks of the equipment and the new laser guns being used, the Ultralite LT1, do not require periodic calibration until such a point that they fail the accuracy checks.  They are very high tech and super accurate.

    The day I was in court, every single person was found guilty regardless of their defense.  My advice in Idaho is to pay the ticket, you will only lose if you go to court as the judge will always side with the officer.

  • Wed, Jul 20 2011 1:01 PM In reply to

    Re: Tuning fork calibration certificates not required at trial?

    The OP was from 2008.

  • Wed, Jul 20 2011 1:09 PM In reply to

    Re: Tuning fork calibration certificates not required at trial?

    Yes of course.  What I'm doing is providing updated information for those who wish to pursue this type of defense in the State of Idaho.

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