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Keep your eyes peeled for this one in 2009: a California teenager is trying to get out of a speeding ticket by convincing a court to admit data from his GPS unit. Shaun Malone was pulled over on July 4, 2007, after a radar gun clocked him going 62 in a 45 mph zone. Little did the police officer know that Malone’s parents had equipped his car with a state-of-the-art GPS unit that recorded his speed and position every thirty seconds and alerted his parents whenever he exceeded the speed limit. Malone’s stepfather, a retired police officer, had promised him that they would help him fight a speeding ticket if his GPS said he wasn’t speeding, and fight they have.
After a judge ruled against him in a trial by affidavit, Malone appealed. The result so far has been a two-year-long series of expert testimony and continuances, seemingly with no resolution in sight. Quite an expensive battle for a $190 ticket.
In the end, all U.S. drivers might owe the Malone family big. At present, courts are hesitant to admit GPS data in such cases– even courts that follow the Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals standard that is supposed to determine admissibility of new technology on a case-by-case basis. Data from radar guns, however, is admitted routinely, despite the fact that radar guns are still prone to human error more than fifty years after their first use. This leaves drivers with no ammunition against a ticket that could easily have been the product of human error or, worse, a deliberate move to raise revenue for the local government. Courts should admit data from reliable GPS units.
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