NEWBURYPORT — A legal defense for speeding likely never heard before in Newburyport District Court — the deer was speeding, not me — raised plenty of eyebrows and had attorneys and others in the courtroom checking their cellphones to see how fast a deer can actually run.

Dennis Sayers of Haverhill presented that argument Thursday morning before Judge Peter Doyle as part of his appeal of a speeding violation he received in West Newbury on Nov. 14, after being pulled over on Bachelor Street. 

According to court records, Sayers was charged with going 40 mph in a 30 mph zone and went before a clerk magistrate in late December. The magistrate ruled in favor of the West Newbury Police Department and fined him $105. Sayers appealed the decision, setting the stage for Thursday’s hearing. 

During Sayers’ questioning of ticket writer officer Royster Johnson, he mentioned that he was traveling as fast as 51 mph before being pulled over. Sayers asked the veteran law enforcement official if he was 100 percent sure his radar device captured Sayers’ speed or the speed of a deer that could have been in the vicinity. 

Sayers’ line of defense had people in the courtroom giggling, which turned to laughter when Doyle asked him a question: 

“You’re not contending the radar picked up the deer?” Doyle said. 

Sayers replied that anything was possible. 

A few minutes later, Doyle ruled in favor of West Newbury police and imposed the original $105 fine. 

According to reference.com and other online sources, deer can run approximately 30 mph. 

Upon hearing about the court’s decision a few hours later, West Newbury police Chief Art Reed said that Sayers’ speeding argument was a first for him. 

“In the 30-plus years of me being a police chief, I have never heard anyone use that defense,” Reed said, “and expect it to succeed.” 

Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached by email at drogers@newburyportnews.com