University of California at San Diego physics professor, Dmitri Krioukov, was issued a $400 traffic ticket for failing to stop at a stop sign. Unlike most traffic tickets though, he beat it at trial. How? He wrote a four page explanation to the judge that the officer was easily confused by the angle of speed of this hypothetical object that appeared to fail at the stop sign. Using his understanding of linear and angular motion, Krioukov explained that what the officer thought he saw, "did not properly reflect reality." The judge dismissed the traffic ticket.
The judge probably appreciated that the physicist didn't state the officer was a liar, which would have alienated the judge. Rather, the expert explained how the police officer could have easily made a simple mistake. This provided the judge something to put in hat on without having to criminalize law enforcement. That's something criminal defense lawyers can learn from as well. As a criminal defense attorney, it is very tempting to show the officer is a liar, and sometimes it must be done. However, the tactful approach of not attacking the officer can often be the best legal strategy.
It's also interesting to point out how using an expert made a difference. In many DUI cases I defend, we contemplate using experts. There are some great ones out there, who can scientifically challenge the reliability of a breathalyzer,
blood draw, or other evidence. We even have drunk driving experts who can question the validity of whether there was probable cause to make an arrest or whether the field sobriety tests were administered properly. But the reality is, juror will sometimes think of the expert as a mere hired gun. This case was interesting in that the expert was the defendant himself. Furthermore, it wasn't even before a jury, but before a judge.
Congratulations to this physicists who used his scientific knowledge to win a case. I wouldn't be surprised if he now becomes an expert used by lawyers all over!