One – it is the loneliest number. However, there is power in being the solitary numeric. Only one person can be President of the United States. Only one person can be the quarterback on each play. Only one person can drive the car (which excludes the backseat driver). One means exclusiveness. When it comes to weighing trucks and trailers to investigate overweight violations, the police officer only weighs the vehicles once. The article this week explains why.
First, some background. The first Standard of Practice (SOP) ever written by the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association is about the requirement of officers to actually use scales when writing overweight tickets. It may seem ridiculous such a policy is necessary, but that’s what happens when the law is misinterpreted or taught incorrectly. The ITEA has written an article about this topic in the past and you can read it HERE.
Second, some legislative truth. The Illinois Vehicle Code has very little to say about using scales. The law requires scales to be used when a vehicle which is suspect of being overweight is investigated. Also, the scales must be certified by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. That’s about it.
What the law does not say is how to weigh trucks on scales. This may sound unbelievable, but the law does not say the ground must be level prior to weighing. The law does not say liquid loads cannot be weighed on portable scales. The law does not say dummy pads must be used to keep a vehicle level.
When the law lacks direction, common sense should prevail. In training classes, the ITEA teaches proper methods to weigh vehicles by filling in the gaps left by the General Assembly. A person need not be a physics genius or an engineer to see certain methods of weighing trucks can alter weights, even if the law does specifically prohibit or prescribe specific actions.
What’s fair is fair, and police officers should be taking the high road at all costs when weighing trucks which could result in citations in the multiple thousands of dollars. Unjust scales and unequal weights are an abomination to all things good about law enforcement.
A concept the ITEA teaches is to only weigh a vehicle once. What is being referred to here is weighing a truck on one scale, then weighing it a second time on a different scale. This concept does not apply to weighing the same truck multiple times axle by axle on the same scale for an aggregate gross weight.
So here’s some comparisons for the skeptic police officers. When checking vehicle speeds, do you use two radar guns and write the citation using the evidence gained by radar displaying the higher speed? Or when you arrest a suspected drunk driver, do you have the person blow into two different machines to see which yields the greater blood alcohol concentration?
Of course you do not do these unscrupulous things. The reason is because no two instruments of measurement are going to be exactly the same. There are margins of error in everything. Take any two measurements as far to the right of the decimal point as you want, and eventually the two calculations will diverge.
When a police officer compares two similar measurement devices against each other, and receives two different results, one impeaches the other. Which one is right? Which one is wrong? A reasonable doubt has been established. This provides an affirmative defense for defendant. With a competent judge, these cases will be dismissed.
Good for the trucker, but bad for the administration of justice. Regardless of your opinion of the police and truck enforcement efforts, you are a citizen. You pay compulsory taxes. You should expect your police officers to follow the highest standards when enforcing the law, even if you disagree with it.
It’s not uncommon for a trucker who has received an overweight ticket to show up in court with a weight ticket from another scale. Sometimes these secondary weighs are taken prior to the traffic stop or after the traffic stop, but they always show a significant discrepancy compared to the evidenced used by the officer.
One may speculate the many reasons why these weights could be different, but the police officer only has to meet his burden of proof. #YouOnlyWeighOnce.
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