9/23/2015France: Drivers Win Right To Post Speed Trap Warnings On Facebook
Appellate court in France acquits motorists convicted of posting speed trap locations on Facebook.
Fourteen French motorists who had been convicted of the crime of posting speed trap locations on Facebook were relieved Monday to learn of their acquittal on Monday. The Montpellier Appeals Court overturned the December 3, 2014 lower court decision that had found the leaders of a Facebook group guilty of violating a law banning radar detectors by regularly reporting on the locations of police ticketing traps.
"Between May 15, 2013 and July 27, 2013... [the defendants] used a device or product to avoid the detection of a road traffic offense, in this case equipping his mobile phone with the Facebook application to access 'The group that tells you where the police in Aveyron are' allowing him to escape detection of road traffic offenses," the charges stated.
A judge in the town of Rodez found the fourteen guilty as charged and imposed a one-month license suspension. Although the motorists successfully had these charges tossed out on appeal, their Facebook page remains unavailable.
Government officials wanted the popular page removed because it circulated memes mocking enforcement efforts as revenue raising expeditions. After the fourteen motorists were first charged, the constant media coverage helped the page nearly double in size to over 14,000 members. Prosecutors claimed the Facebook page was a "device" under French law. Since the page was accessible on the road through a mobile app, the page effectively allowed the public to know where the speed cameras were operating in the same way that an illegal radar detector does. The group's defense attorney argued that such a broad application of the law would have wide-ranging consequences beyond the social media website.
"If what they are doing is forbidden, then all warning radars should be banned, all newspapers and local radio stations that report radar locations should be closed," defense lawyer Remy Josseaume argued.
Josseaume's argument swayed the appellate court, which overturned the convictions on the simple grounds that Facebook is not a radar detector. Prosecutors have until the end of the week to appeal.