By on November 15, 2010

A veteran district court judge in Herford, Germany earlier this month dismissed 42 speed camera citations on the grounds that they were not issued for any legitimate safety purpose. Judge Helmut Knoner blasted the use of cameras that has turned into a multi-billion-dollar worldwide industry.

“Speed cameras are often a big rip-off,” Knoner said. “There is no law that regulates when, where and how measurements are made. For me, the reasonable suspicion is that cities, counties and police authorities only want to make money.”

Knoner vowed not to convict anyone based on speed camera evidence until the law changes to provide clear protections for motorists. Existing prosecutions take advantage of statutes designed to fight terrorism and organized crime, not traffic violations. Knoner argued that the state was misapplying the law. As long as a driver remains silent, a photograph is insufficient, absent other evidence, to identify the offender. He added that there was an inherent conflict of interest in having local officials decide where to place cameras considering the amount of money they are able to generate. He said that if the state wants to raise revenue, it should raise taxes, not issue tickets.

“How can I judge whether a speed camera to make money or was set up because of an accident black spot?” Knoner wrote in his ruling. “We need rules on how and where should be photographed and that speed cameras are set up there where it has meaning and purpose.”

Knoner has served on the bench for thirty years. Prosecutors are now looking at the possibility of appealing the cases. In an online chat with Stern TV last week, the judge expanded on his reasoning.

“In recent years, the density of monitoring by automated systems and new methods (e.g. laser) has increased significantly,” Knoner said. “Now, digital technology watches 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The situation on the streets alternates between dense traffic and very low-traffic. Monitoring systems do not adapt. If there is any breach it suspects a ‘speedster.’ Because of the new technology, I think it is possible that the high-volume monitoring will continue to increase, possibly only for financial reasons. This must be stopped.”

Knoner emphasized that the procedural rules are put in place to prevent an abuse of power by the state. He explained that it is essential not to allow the government to violate its own rules. He hoped other judges would join in his effort.

“If many judges participate, it will put considerable pressure on the federal government,” Knoner said. “The government then will have no choice but to establish clear rules.”


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12 Comments on “Germany: Judge Blasts Speed Cameras as Cash Grab...”

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Wow!  Send this guy over here.  I think he’s hit the core of problem:  automated devices might have some justification if there was any actual showing that they reduced accidents where they were used.  But, in the absence of such a showing, they’re no more than revenue-raising devices, employed not in a way to maximize public safety, but in a way to maximize the revenue they generate.

  • avatar

    Can we clone this guy and bring them back to the states.

  • avatar

    Actually he must be sent to UK, most of EU, Aussiesland, Canukistan and wherever the cameras are going to be installed.

  • avatar

    Ok, people, time for a little consistency: let’s hear those cries of “activist judge!” now?
    (note: I agree with him.  I think cameras are a useful tool, both for safety’s sake and for freeing up police to do useful work rather than sit at traps, but that we need guidelines and incentives for their appropriate use)

  • avatar

    It’s likely that data isn’t being used because the argument for speed cameras would be undermined by said data’s use.
    The issue over public safety has taken a back seat to revenue, which is a shame because red light cameras do have some use where habitual red light runners cause accidents.  In my neighborhood, this would include a less traveled intersection, but one where there appears to be an inordinate number of accidents.
    If there was only some type of portable red light camera system… oh wait, they’re called police officers.

  • avatar

    It seems like the exact same arguments could be made against most manned speed traps as well.  Just sitting there collecting money, doesn’t matter if the speeder is actually creating a dangerous situation or not.

    • 0 avatar

      Excellent point also.  Up N of Seattle, a favorite hunting ground for the tax revenoors, er WSP, they work virtually everything rush hour.  Not on the side where all the traffic is of course, but on the other free flowing side where they can pick off a few opposite commute workers doing  75 in the 60 zone.  Of course, all the wrecks occur on the traffic’ed side, but hey, the state’s got a budget crunch…

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar


    Now when do I get my refunds for all the radarkontrolle tickets I paid over the years from various B-10 speed-traps in and around Pirmasens/Annweiler/Laudau?

  • avatar

    A judge that actually has common sense, and is German to boot. This guy has made my day.

  • avatar

    Right he is.  Let’s praise the independence of judges.
    Income-wise, German communities DO rely on speeding tickets. Usually, speed-traps are set up at four-lane inner city roads, with ample bushes to hide, not on accident-prone spots.
    Same with Autobahns. Driving with about 180 km/h on a totally empty Autobahn does not impose any dangers to anyone, but offers a nice source of income from machine-ticketing to our overlords. Nobody cares about REAL dangerous driving, because there is no way of automating the prosecution of such offenses.
    I’ve got two “speeding” tickets over the last 5 years for exceeding the speed limit by 4 km/h and 6 km/h somewhere in the woods, by a “Kommunaler Interessenverband” (a society set up by broken municipalities in order to cash money from “speeders”). After this “Interessenverband” was dissolved by court order due to corruption and criminal offenses and there was no real speed ticketing for more than a year, nothing changed with regard to safety on the road. Just a decrease in income for the communities involved setting up this scheme.
    Now let’s wait for the chorus of the do-gooders singing: “Just obey the speed limits” and “If only one accident is prevented”.

  • avatar

    His Honor doesn’t beat around the bush or sugarcoat the issue.
    Something you won’t hear from spineless politicians or bureaucrats whose coffers depend on $$$$ from said industry…

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