3/5/2008Italy: Appeals Court Tosses Undercover Speed Trap Ticket
Italian appeals court rules that tickets issued by plainclothes traffic police are illegal.
Italy's Court of Cassation yesterday ruled invalid a speeding ticket issued by an off-duty police officer in a decision that could outlaw the deceptive use of speed traps. The municipal officer was not in uniform when he stopped a motorist identified only as Sandra S. in Reggio Emilia in 2003. When a local magistrate overturned the ticket, the municipality appealed. In its decision yesterday, the appellate court's second civil division rejected the prosecution's arguments, citing Article 183 of the municipal traffic code.
"When working on the highway, officers responsible for regulating traffic must be visible from a distance through the use of distinctive clothing or uniforms," the appeals court judges wrote.
Since the officer was neither in uniform nor visible from a distance, his citation was not issued under municipal police authority, the court concluded. The consumer watchdog group Codacons believes that this sets a precedent that could outlaw hidden speed traps and serve as the basis for thousands of appeals. The group also complained today about motorists being trapped by red light cameras at intersections with yellow times set too short. Codacons spokesman Fabio Galli told Gazzetta di Modena that there was no reason not to add a second or two of yellow time to keep motorists from slamming the brakes out of fear, which can cause an accident, in order to avoid an automated ticket.