9/10/2014France: Facebook Users Stand Trial For Anti-Speed Camera Posts
Fifteen members of an anti-camera speed camera group are brought to trial in France over their online posts.
Fifteen Facebook users in France will have to wait until December to find out whether a criminal court judge deems them to be illegal radar detectors. A packed courtroom in the southern town of Rodez heard the case against the leaders of the 10,000-member page "The group that tells you where the police are in Aveyron on Tuesday. Officials were infuriated by the memes posted on the page mocking automated ticketing and warning members where speed traps in the area are lurking. The charges were filed in May in the unique complaint.
"For the first time, a prosecutor decided to hunt down members of a group of citizens on the Internet," said the owners of a separate Facebook group designed to support the accused.
Prosecutor Yves Delperie asked the court to suspend the drivers licenses of the defendants and to impose a 500 euro fine (US $645) on each. He cited a law banning the use of radar detectors, arguing that it applies to the Facebook page because it is accessible through a mobile app and lets the public know where cameras are operating -- just like a radar detector. Delperie insisted that the word "device," as used in the radar detector law, applies to the Facebook site. Section R413-15 of the highway code which bans the possession of a "device or product" that detects or informs of the presence of speed cameras.
Remy Josseaume, lead lawyer for the defense, argued that his clients are people, not radar detectors.
"In this case, one gets the feeling of having a prosecutor who wants to make a splash," Josseaume said. "But his argument doesn't work."
Other local police forces in France use their own Facebook pages to advertise radar deployment, including police in Yvelines. The defendants argued that it was hypocritical for prosecutors to charge them for doing what other police departments have been doing. Despite the legal heat, the anti-camera Facebook page has never slowed down. Users continued discussing the case and local radar traps, which are now referred to with code names such as "blue," throughout the trial.