How a law prof got a judge to rule that speeding cam tickets are unenforceable

Originally published at:


if i read that correctly, he’s not arguing against traffic cam laws per se but rather that laws should fall clearly either into civil or into criminal law so that one can actually contest tickets: as one would parking or speeding?


I’m confused too:
One paragraph states the cop had no evidence; but the other notes a picture?

Maybe the clock was off by an hour due to D.S.T.; something like that probably has different laws in various states…

The cop had no evidence that the accused was driving the vehicle.

20 Likes for the UK equivalent

In Germany where photo traps have been in existence for decades, they have a lot of experience in which photos are admissible in court. The basic gist is that the photo has to show not only the license but also the face of the driver. This is easier to do in the EU because all autos need a front license plate. This is a problem in the States, where only the rear license is required in many states and even then, the plates are designed for vanity, not for easy readability.
edited for a typo


Although of course motorcycles don’t have them…


True. I was going to say “motor vehicles” but then I remembered “oh yeah, motorcycles”. I guess the number of motorcycles is low enough that they aren’t worth the bother. Especially when you consider how the number of cycles is really, really low in at the moment with all the snow, slush and rain.

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As noted above, motorcycles have only rear plates (the front ones were too dangerous in accidents). It would not be difficult to have two cameras taking front and rear photos with a suitable time separation - after all, the radar knows exactly how fast the vehicle is going.

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Yes, in the UK, the owner of the vehicle is required to state who was driving at the time; if they refuse to do so, the penalty is similar to that for a speeding offence.

If they’re caught lying about who was driving, they can be charged with perverting the course of justice and could be imprisoned; government ministers are not exempt.


The article makes a clear distinction between giving the man a ticket and giving the car a ticket. They had evidence against his car, which was caught speeding. But they couldn’t possibly have evidence against the professor, who has a solid alibi. Somebody else was driving the car.

The other problem is a much bigger deal. He was charged with a crime, but charged in such a way that all the protections of criminal law were voided. Imagine if rioting was illegal, and the media called your peaceful protest a riot. Now imagine automated cameras with sophisticated face-recognition software had spotted your face at a protest, and you were assessed a thousand-dollar fine. Now imagine that it’s a “civil enforcement of criminal law,” so the rules of evidence are waived and you’re not allowed to defend yourself, and the rules of civil law are also waived, so the government can pretty much circumvent the court and do whatever the hell they want. The First Amendment is treated as irrelevant.

See the problem?


It does sound as if the subsequent legal process was inappropriately handled, but the principle seems reasonable, doesn’t it? That if a vehicle is recorded committing a criminal offence, the vehicle’s recorded keeper is presumed to have been responsible unless he/she can prove that someone else was (and in which case, who the keeper had authorised).


So he paid twice the fine and called it a victory?

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He paid twice the amount the fine would be and the law permitting this type of enforcement in his state has been overturned (I’m not clear the two are related, these cameras are legally dodgy in most states even ignoring the issues of this case). The area he’s in has decided to defy the law, keep camera enforcement, and triple the fines.

I’m not sure anyone is counting this as a victory.


Since Avis can’t prove that I was driving that car at that exact time, they’re responsible for the ticket.


Not if it’s criminal. The burden of proof is on the state. Presumed innocence.


probably…? Do you have any evidence of this? any? Does not seem probable at all to me.

As Beanolini stated re UK, if you are the ‘keeper’ (UK term almost same as ‘owner’) of the vehicle and you say you were not driving at the time, you must say who was. You are presumed to know/be able to find out. You need a very good and credible reason not to comply. (“It could have been either of these two - I do not know” in which case likely those two would be asked and subject to the same sanctions.) So I would imagine that as the Avis hirer, you know who was driving. Last time I looked, Avis only let drivers drive whose licences they had seen. So if Avis cannot prove you were driving, they - and the law - can assume you were, or you know who was (and that person was not insured, not being notified to Avis, thus committing another offence), or you are claiming the vehicle was taken without your consent/knowledge. Sorry - the “it’s a hire car” does not really wash, either (in UK at least).


OH - so someone else was driving the car. See I was worried when I read: “he received a speeding ticket generated by a traffic camera for a time when he knew he hadn’t been driving his car (he’d been lecturing at the moment when the picture was snapped),”

So that means either it is making up shit, taking a pic from another day and assigned it to him under a new time stamp, in which I was like WTF? - Or someone else was driving it, probably someone he knows vs stolen or borrowed with out knowledge.

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Depends upon the state, and how much they want to enforce. California requires both plates, but no one goes around and tickets cars with missing front plate.