9/9/2016French High Court Overturns Ban On Facebook Speed Trap Warnings
Supreme court in France upholds the right of citizens to mock police revenue raising operations and post speed camera locations.
Fourteen French motorists who faced criminal charges for posting speed trap warnings on Facebook were fully exonerated by the highest court in France. In a brief ruling Tuesday, the Cassation Court affirmed the right of the public to use social media to announce the locations of speed cameras and police speed traps.
"It was a pleasure and honor to defend this cause," Remy Josseaume, the motorists' attorney, wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday. "It is a victory for us all, and a snub to those who pushed this prosecution... The law has triumphed."
In 2014, Prosecutor Yves Delperie sought a one-month license suspension and a 500 euro (US $645) fine against the key members of the Facebook group "that tells you where the police are in Aveyron," which, at its peak, had over 14,000 members. The page circulated memes mocking the revenue-raising habits of local police and offered regular warnings about the sneakiest of speed trap locations. Delperie argued that these online posts violated the French radar detector ban law because the Facebook site can be accessed on a mobile phone. A trial court judge agreed and convicted the motorists.
Last year, the Montpellier Appeals Court rejected the lower court decision, but the prosecution refused to back down. Government officials insisted that "contempt of the police" must not be allowed online. The Cassation Court justices noted that many police agencies throughout France use Facebook and other social media sites to advertise the locations of their speed cameras and drunk driving roadblocks. As the appellate court pointed out, the law bans devices designed to detect speed traps. It is not plausible that lawmakers had the social network website in mind when it banned "devices" that warn of upcoming radar locations. The high court justices sided with this interpretation of the law.
"The Court of Appeal justified its decision without breaching the provisions relied upon," the high court ruled. "Whence it follows that the plea can not be upheld."
Despite winning at the appellate court and supreme court level, the Facebook group remains unavailable.
A copy of the ruling (in French) is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.