Ask A Cop: Wiretapping, Speeding and Headlights
Montgomery County Police spokesman answers questions submitted by Patch readers.
This week, Lucille Baur of the Montgomery County Police Department takes on questions from Patch readers.
Patch Reader Question: How many people were, in 2011, charged with violating the state's wiretapping laws for photographing or videotaping police officers?
Baur: We are not aware of any such charges in 2011. Please note that wiretapping laws do not apply to photography or videotaping without sound. Officers know that they may be photographed or videotaped by anyone as they are in the course of conducting their regular duties. The wiretapping laws protect a conversation when there is a reasonable expectation of privacy such as during a phone call. No one is allowed to record a verbal conversation without the permission of all of the parties involved.
Patch Reader Question: I took a criminal course 20+ years ago at University of Maryland and we had a Maryland State Police officer do a similar question and answer session. We learned that police officers are not able to speed unless they have their lights on and are involved in a call. Since then I have followed police officers in other states at speeds of nearly 100 mph without receiving a ticket. Locally, I have followed county officers at 40 mph on the 25 mph Maryland Avenue. Can these officers stop and ticket me if he is in fact just speeding and not involved in a call?
Baur: The premise is not quite accurate. Officers do respond Code 3 (use of emergency lights and siren) when the circumstances are such that an expedited response is necessary to prevent injury to any person and/or increase the likelihood of apprehending suspects.
However officers may exceed the speed limit without the use of lights and siren in certain circumstances such as when they are pacing a car believed to be traveling in excess of the speed limit in order to determine the approximate speed at which the vehicle is traveling. That would be the most typical situation where a motorist would be cited for speeding by an officer who has also exceeded the speed limit.
An officer conducting a covert surveillance of a suspect vehicle may exceed the speed limit in order to stay in proximity of the suspect vehicle. Officers responding to the report of such crimes as a bank robbery or burglary may turn off lights and sirens as they approach the scene of the crime so as not to warn suspects of their approach.
Officers are expected to obey speed limits in the course of regular patrol. If an individual has sufficient concern that an officer is exceeding the speed limit for reasons that are not work-related, that information can be reported to the Police Internal Affairs Division for investigation. Officers, just like the rest of the driving public, can receive speeding citations if there is not a reasonable explanation of why the speed limit has been exceeded.
Patch Reader Question: A recent out-of-state court case upheld the legality of flashing one's lights at oncoming traffic to signal a radar operation ahead. Is this practice now within citizens rights again in Maryland?
Baur: It has never been against the law to flash one’s headlights at another car to indicate speed enforcement ahead in Maryland. Some officers in the past, erroneously, charged Traffic Article § 22-227(c).
Patch Reader Question: Is it OK to enter a roundabout on the left when the roundabout connects two cul-de-sacs?
Baur: Under Maryland Traffic Law, if the traffic circle/roundabout is a one-way direction, as indicated by a traffic control device, (usually a sign with an arrow pointing right and the word “ONLY” printed on the sign), all traffic must proceed counter-clockwise around the circle/roundabout. It would be a violation of Traffic Article §21-201 and possibly Traffic Article §21-901.1
Patch Reader Question: Why are there signs that say “Photo Enforced” when there are no photo speed cameras?
Baur: Montgomery County Police want to ensure that all drivers driving in Montgomery County are aware that our county operates a speed camera program. By policy such signs are posted at roadways entering the county for this very purpose, to maximize transparency.
Because speed cameras mounted in vans and portable speed cameras can be moved throughout the county, we do not just post signs on roadways where there are fixed pole cameras, we also provide signs throughout the county where the mobile and portable units have the potential of being deployed.
The purpose of the cameras is to reduce the practice of speeding throughout the county, and notifying the driving public of the fact that they may encounter a speed camera while driving in the county helps reinforce the fact that drivers should be driving the speed limit whenever and wherever they drive in Montgomery County.