Teen tries GPS defense to fight speeding ticket

What started out as a simple disputed speeding ticket has blossomed into a full-scale trial in Sonoma County Superior Court, costing both sides thousands of dollars.

A year ago July 4, Windsor teenager Shaun Malone, now 18, received a ticket on Lakeville Highway after a Petaluma police officer using radar said he clocked the teen's 2000 Toyota Celica GTS going 62 mph in a 45 mph zone.

But Malone's family contends that a GPS system they installed in his car to monitor his driving habits proves he was driving 45 mph at virtually the same time and place the officer said he clocked him speeding.

A trial began with testimony in Traffic Court on Friday morning before Commissioner Carla Bonilla.

Malone is appealing a ruling by another commissioner that he was guilty of speeding, a trial that was conducted all on paper.

The unprecedented GPS challenge to radar could change the way Sonoma County authorities enforce speed laws. The case also has attracted national attention for its potential to set a precedent for challenges relying on GPS, which is becoming common in vehicles as a mapping or tracking device.

The nonjury trial that began Friday has elevated the dispute to another level -- legally and financially -- for both Malone's family and the city of Petaluma.

A GPS expert the city retained has been called to testify twice, at $5,000 per appearance, and is scheduled to return Oct. 3 when the trial resumes.

The city also is paying for the time of a police sergeant and three other officers who attended the trial's opening day Friday. In addition, the city traffic engineer and computer mapping expert both testified Friday.

For the trial, the city has prepared an audio-video experiment to show the road in question and how the officer used his radar gun to determine Malone's speed.

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