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French Supreme Court Throws Out Inaccurate Speed Camera Tickets
Highest court in France tosses photo radar tickets issued to school buses accused of reaching impossible speeds.

French bus in AinFrance's highest court threw out several speed cameras tickets earlier this month after an expert proved the speed estimates were bogus. The Court of Cassation examined the tickets and found that it was impossible for the accused school buses to have been traveling at 80 km/h (50 MPH) in a 50 km/h (31 MPH) zone, as the cameras claimed.

Officials at the transportation authority in Ain became infuriated after their agency received multiple citations from the Mesta 210C speed camera located on the D5 in Amberieu-en-Bugey. The tickets had been issued on different dates and times to different drivers, which the agency leadership found to be highly unlikely. Prosecutors stood by the tickets, citing French law to fend off any potential challenge.

"Except in cases where the law provides otherwise, citations... are authentic until proven otherwise," Article 537 of the Criminal Procedure Code states. "Contrary evidence can not be presented in writing or by witnesses."

In addition, prosecutors said that the radar unit was shown to be perfectly calibrated and showed no sign of malfunction.

The trial judge in Bourg-en-Bresse appointed an expert to test the prosecution's claim that the speed estimates were accurate. Police shut down the road where the camera was located so that the exact route taken could be replicated. The test proved that there was no way the nineteen-ton bus could have reached the speeds alleged by the automated ticketing machine. Even when completely empty, the bus was unable to reach 70 km/h (43 MPH) before reaching the camera. The expert testified that well known radar errors were responsible for the bogus camera readings. The high court agreed with trial judge's reasoning in overturning the speed camera tickets as based on unreliable evidence.

"In so deciding, the local court has properly applied Article 537 of the Criminal Procedure Code," the high court ruled. "The report of the expert appointed by the local court established the inability the vehicles involved to achieve the speeds recorded by the automatic control device. Thus, it follows that the ground [for the prosecution's appeal] can not be upheld."

Wildly inaccurate speed camera readings involving buses and other large vehicles are nothing new. A decade ago, an Australian bus union proved conclusively with scientific testing that its drivers had been unfairly ticketed. New Zealand officials likewise were forced to refund 133 tickets wrongly issued to truck drivers after the speed camera readings were proved to be false.

A copy of the decision is available in a 120k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: Case 15-83019 (Cassation Court of France, 3/8/2016)

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