Meck DA: Expired radar certification results in speeding ticket dismissals

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — A “procedural” error by The North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission resulted in police officers not knowing their radar certifications were about to expire. In one case, a Huntersville officer continued to write tickets, not knowing his certification had lapsed. All of those tickets have since been dismissed.

Ranson Road in Huntersville is about a mile and a half. It’s surrounded by homes and an elementary school.

The street is a frequent hiding place for Huntersville police officers. Many of the speed limit signs warn the speed limit is radar enforced.

Ranson Road is where a Huntersville police officer set up shop to catch speeders at least six times in February and March. He wrote seven tickets. All of them, and 18 more, are being dismissed by the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office due to a certification issue.

Huntersville Commissioner Rob Kidwell says this was an oversight.

“It was a hiccup,” Commissioner Kidwell said.

The North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission issues certifications to police officers to use speed measuring instruments (SMIs), like radar guns. Typically, there’s an expiration date of three years. Channel 9 obtained the certificates of several Huntersville police officers, one with an expiration date of Feb. 18, 2023.

Channel 9′s Joe Bruno learned the officer wrote 25 tickets after his certification expired, including for a Ranson Road driver going 50 miles per hour when the speed limit is 30, another Ranson Road driver going 40 in a school zone with a 25 mile per hour limit, and a McCord Road driver traveling 59 in a 40.

All 25 tickets have since been dismissed, according to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office.

“I hope the drivers that did get off due to this error take that to heart and say, ‘I will watch my speeds through the Huntersville community,’” Kidwell said.

Lt. Brian Ehlschlager oversees the traffic enforcement division at the Huntersville Police Department and said the officer didn’t realize his certification expired.

“It was a one-off situation,” he said.

He said the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission used to send reminders but stopped several years ago.

“I don’t know why that is, but they haven’t since,” he said.

Attorney General Josh Stein’s office oversees the commission. A spokesperson for the AG told Channel 9 that generally, both officers and agencies are responsible for making sure officers are certified. Channel 9 followed up, asking why the Commission stopped sending reminders.

The spokesperson told Bruno North Carolina Administrative Code requires the Commission to notify certified SMI operators within 90 days of their expiration date.

12 NCAC 09C .0308 requires the Commission to notify certified SMI operators within 90 days of their expiration date,” spokesperson Nazneen Ahmed said. “The SMI Program Manager also conducts SMI certification queries with identified agencies to ensure certification records are current for all agency SMI operators.”

After a follow up question from Bruno asking if the commissioner specifically notified the HPD officer, Ahmed confirmed the Commission did not. The Commission didn’t notify any officers between January and May.

“You’re correct that the Commission is required to notify officers when their certification is expiring,” he said. “We didn’t send reminders between January and May of this year because of a procedural error on our end that has now been corrected. Notifications have since resumed.”

Lt. Ehlschlager says the Huntersville Police Department has now purchased software to send out automatic reminders to officers when their certification is about to expire.

Commissioner Kidwell said anything that can be done to take the load off of officers is a win-win.

“Our officers have so much more to do,” he said. “They need to be out there patrolling they need to be protecting our citizens, serving our community.”

Kidwell and Lt. Ehlschlager hope the formerly ticketed drivers take away something from this.

“I hope they say, wow I got lucky, let me take this in and pay attention to my surroundings,’” he said.

“Just slow down, relax, it is so much more pleasant to drive when you are not worried about rushing around trying to get past people,” Lt. Ehlschlager said.

(WATCH BELOW: 9 Investigates: Drivers ignoring red lights at intersections)