WINK News Investigates: Lawsuit filed after use of improper radar gun

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LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Within hours after a WINK News exclusive investigation, a major class action lawsuit was filed.

Monday night on WINK News at 6, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office was exposed for using unapproved radar guns, resulting in possibly thousands of speeding tickets that should never have been written.

Numerous lawyers tell WINK News that there’s much more to this than just the cost of a speeding ticket. If the stop was made initially because of the unapproved radar guns, what about the cost of traffic school? What about the points on your license, the extra money you spent on insurance? What about the cost of a DUI, lawyers fees, and insurance?

WINK News spoke with the head of the office which took in all the millions of dollars and who saw our story on WINK News Monday night.

“My first concern was what about if we have to refund all this money?” said Linda Doggett, who runs the Lee County Clerk of Courts which collects the money for speeding tickets. “They look at that revenue as the main source for funding clerks and court related functions and many other trust funds in state and local agencies.”

Our investigation discovered that for over at least the last 10 years, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office has issued up to 52,000 speeding tickets. Sources with direct knowledge of the situation say most of those are based on a radar device called the Python II.

Don Sawicki is a radar exert who testifies in court cases. He says the problem with the Python II lies in what’s known as beam width and that it does not meet Florida’s minimum design specifications.

“It specifically says that the beam width shall not exceed 12 degrees,” said Sawicki.

In a graphic shown on WINK News, it shows a radar gun pointing towards three vehicles. With a device with a 12 degree beam width, it shows that there’s no problem. But, in another graphic which depicts a 15 degree beam width Sawicki explains, “He could be picking up traffic that he is not expecting to pick up, so he may mistake somebody for speeding that isn’t speeding.”

That’s a problem, because the Python II has a 15 degree beam width.

“Therefore, any speed measurement from the Python II is inadmissible in any court in Florida,” said Mark Bonner, who’s a former federal prosecutor and now teaches at Ave Maria Law School.

Tuesday morning people had already started going to the courthouse to look up their ticket.

“Sometimes they name which device they use and the serial number,” Doggett explained. “Sometimes they just say radar, so you’re not guaranteed that it’s going to be listed on your ticket.”

Also Tuesday, Fort Myers attorney Sawyer Smith filed a federal class action lawsuit. “We have launched a website,, that allows a ticketed driver to submit some basic information that will allow us to evaluate whether they have the potential to be in this class.”

Smith says this is going to be big. “The sky’s the limit with this case. I assure you it’s going to be broad. This is just the beginning.”

WINK News finally heard from Sheriff Mike Scott Tuesday afternoon. He points out that he took the bad radar guns off the streets in January, which was clearly pointed out in our initial story. He also said he felt our story made it seem like he purchased the devices. However, we were clear in saying they were purchased in 2004, and that Scott was elected in November of that year.

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