The first fine notices after the use of a new type of "mobile phone speed camera" in Germany remain valid, at least for the time being. The district court in Trier on Thursday rejected appeals by three drivers against fines due to the use of a mobile phone on the steering wheel. The court found that there was no legal basis for the use of the new device. Nevertheless, the evidence presented for unauthorized cell phone use at the wheel should be used by the court.
Rhineland-Palatinate was the first federal state to test the "mobile phone speed camera" in June 20222 for three months, first in Trier and then in Mainz. The system, developed in the Netherlands, looks similar to a normal speed camera, but works differently. From a motorway bridge, all passing vehicles are first recorded on video. However, the images are only saved when the evaluation software recognizes a mobile phone and a typical hand position for mobile phone use by the driver.
The traffic lawyer Jürgen Verheul, who represented two victims, announced a complaint to the Koblenz Higher Regional Court after the verdict. "It's a matter of discretion, but I don't think it's consistent," he said. The Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of the Interior had declared before the verdict that a "specific legal basis" was undoubtedly necessary for permanent use. For the pilot test, however, one can fall back on a general clause in the country's law on police and regulatory authorities to avert danger.
The Trier magistrate, David Geisen-Krischel, saw things differently: "The mission cannot be based on the general clause," he said. There is "insufficient legal basis for the measure". Even in the case of a pilot project, an authorization basis cannot be dispensed with, especially since fines were issued during the test phase.
Despite the lack of a legal norm, the evidence collected should still be used because the legal "intensity of intervention" is not that high, he said. Rather, there is considerable public interest in sanctioning the use of mobile phones while driving.
Despite repeated requests, the ministry did not want to say how many fine notices were issued during the six-month use of the “mobile phone speed camera”. The Ministry of the Interior will present a balance sheet for the pilot project, it said.