One of the nation’s most well-known sporting venue hecklers – Bethesda attorney Robin Ficker – went to court Monday and turned his sights on a new opponent: a Montgomery County speed camera. And he won.
Ficker contested the $40 citation leveled against him after a camera zapped him on Sept. 5 driving down Jones Bridge Road, between Connecticut and Wisconsin avenues in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area.
Ficker argued that the location of the camera was on a stretch of road that wasn’t residential in nature and didn’t comport with what Ficker called the stated purpose of Montgomery’s speed cameras: slowing down drivers in residential areas or near schools. Ficker said that the nearest house in one direction of the camera was 270 yards; in the other direction, 370 yards. Further, Ficker said, the street where the camera is placed is bordered on one side by a golf course and the other by a medical facility.
For years, Ficker was a staple behind the players’ bench at National Basketball Association games, cheering for the Washington Wizards when they were known as the Bullets. He has also appeared at Washington Nationals baseball games and University of Maryland wrestling matches. He has had ups and downs in his law career.
Ficker said there is a place in the county for speed cameras: in residential areas or near schools, so long as the school cameras are not activated on weekends when there is no school activity. But he said the county should refund $40 to everyone who has gotten a ticket from this particular speed camera. The county should turn off the speed camera or remove it. Then, officials “should put up a sign that says. ‘We’re sorry and we’re going to be sending out refunds.’”
Montgomery County police said in a statement that the camera is properly placed and they have no plans to review other citations given out as a result of the camera.
“Mr. Ficker’s argument was that the speed camera was not placed within 300 feet of a residence,” the police said in a statement. “The law, however, states that the speed camera must be placed on a roadway that contains at least 300 feet of residences, not that the speed camera must be placed within 300 feet of a residence.”
The department noted that the decision, by District Court Judge John Moffett, was for a specfic case. “Judge Moffett’s decision does not establish a precedent that will be binding in other cases presented in court, and the decision in this case does not require a modification of department policy,” the police said.
Asked in an email if he was exceeding the speed limit, Ficker said: “I was speeding a little bit. There was no other traffic on the road.”
Speed cameras are a notorious lightning rod of controversy. Supporters say they force drivers to slow down and make roads safer. while allowing cops to be deployed on activities other than writing tickets. Opponents say jurisdictions use them as an unfair and easy way to bring in revenues.