Laser Jammers – How many UK drivers are risking a prison sentence every time they get behind the wheel?
BB Law recently dealt with a ‘Laser Jammer’ case. Our client’s case was concluded at York Crown Court on 7th February 2017 when our client narrowly avoided an immediate custodial sentence.
What is a laser jammer?
They are devices that can be fitted to a vehicle, which are capable of preventing the type of speed guns often used by the police and safety camera partnerships from calculating a vehicle’s speed. Most laser jammers have a dual function, for example, the ability to be used as a parking sensor or a garage door opener. The companies who sell the laser jammers may suggest they are legal on the basis drivers can claim they were using them as parking sensors or garage door openers, however, the police are likely to take the view that the device is being used with the intention of interfering with a speed check.
Are laser jammers legal?
Arguably, laser jammers are legal to buy, sell and own BUT if a driver uses a laser jammer with the intention of preventing a speed gun from obtaining a reading then the driver is at very high risk of prosecution for an offence of Perverting the Course of Justice. This is because the law deems the targeting of a vehicle with a speed gun to be part of an ‘investigation’ into whether the driver of that vehicle is committing an offence (a speeding offence). Doing an act with the intention of interfering with or frustrating a criminal investigation (even if it is an investigation being conducted by civilian police staff rather than a police officer) amounts to an offence of Perverting the Course of Justice.
If a laser jammer is fitted to my vehicle does it mean that I can avoid all types of speed traps?
No, it certainly doesn’t. laser jammers can only disable speed guns that use laser to calculate speed, for example, the notorious LTI 20/20. Laser jammers won’t affect SPECS cameras, Gatso cameras, average speed cameras, ProVida equipment, VASCAR equipment or undercover police cars conducting ‘follow checks’. Furthermore, most laser jammers are only fitted to the front of a car and so a laser based speed gun aimed at the rear of a vehicle would not be affected. The police sometimes claim the devices provide an ‘invisible cloak’ for a vehicle and allow a driver to exceed speed limits with impunity. In reality the use of a laser jammer does make it a little less likely the driver will get a speeding ticket but the analogy to an invisible cloak is misleading and should not be encouraged. Even when a laser jammer has prevented a speed reading from being obtained the police can often calculate the vehicle’s speed by using the video recording of the speed check (most laser based speed guns are used in conjunction with a video camera that is constantly recording).
What are the police doing about laser jammers?
The police have been slow to get to grips with drivers using these devices but they are starting to get a bit more organised. BB Law understands that traffic officers and safety camera operators have been given training to identify when a vehicle they have targeted might have been using a laser jammer. Any suspected cases are referred to a dedicated police officer whose job it is to investigate drivers who are suspected of perverting the course of justice in relation to road traffic offences.
What should I do if I have one of these devices fitted to my car?
Remove it and bin it. It is simply not worth the risk. The courts treat offences of Perverting the Course of Justice extremely seriously. Often the starting point is a prison sentence and it will take a lot to persuade a crown court judge to draw back from imposing an immediate custodial sentence. There is also a high risk of the court imposing a disqualification from driving as part of the sentence (although we managed to avoid the imposition of a driving ban in our client’s case).
Surely the police will offer me a caution if I have never been in trouble before?
There certainly might be appropriate cases where the police and crown prosecution service might consider offering a police caution to someone who has used a laser jammer but if there are any aggravating factors then the chances of getting a caution will quickly diminish.
I wouldn’t actually get sent to prison for using a laser jammer, would I?
There is a real risk of custody for anyone convicted of Perverting the Course of Justice. Our client’s sentencing hearing actually started at 5pm on the 6th February and the judge decided to remand him into custody for sentencing the next morning, whilst the judge gave further careful thought to the sentence that should be imposed.
Can’t the police just prosecute me for ‘Obstructing a Police Constable’?
Not if the person operating the speed gun was a civilian safety camera team operator and even if it was a police officer who was operating the speed gun, the police may still decide to prosecute for the much more serious Pervert the Course of Justice offence because the police want deterrent sentences to be imposed for laser jammer use.
Is there likely to be any press interest in laser jammer cases?
Yes. The police are likely to encourage the press to report these types of cases. It only takes one reporter to get hold of the details and within a short space of time the story can find its way to national publications. This is how the press reported our client’s case –
What should I do if the police are investigating me for using a laser jammer?
Call Bobby Bell immediately 07764 757 214 and get some expert legal advice.
Notes: Our client, Mr Kitto, has consented to being mentioned in this blog post. He wanted to share his experience in the hope that others will recognise how serious the consequences can be for drivers using this type of device.
Bobby Bell – 8th February 2017