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War of technologies in California speeding case

Parents of a teen driver use data from a GPS vehicular tracking device to fight a speeding charge based on radar guns.

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A California speeding ticket case to be decided in coming weeks puts a new twist on the age-old cops versus drivers battle, pitting police radar against personal GPS tracking devices.

The case, which is drawing national attention, revolves around 17-year-old Shaun Malone, who in 2007 was clocked by a Petaluma, Calif., police officer going over 62 m.p.h. in a 45 m.p.h. zone. He was found guilty and fined $194. But Shaun's parents contested the ticket, citing data from the satellite tracking device they had installed in their son's car and expert testimony.

The tracking device showed that Shaun was traveling at 45 m.p.h. when the officer stopped him. The data were automatically downloaded into the parents' computer.

"The speeding ticket – fear of getting one, how to fight one – is such a ubiquitous concern in American culture that this case is extremely interesting and could produce a compelling outcome," says Daniel Filler, senior associate dean for academic and faculty affairs at Drexel University's Earle Mack School of Law in Philadelphia.

Radar versus GPS

By all accounts, the legal case has been a war of experts and technologies. Petaluma police produced their radar evidence. The defense argued that the readings could have been derailed by human error or interference from road signs and passing trucks.

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