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Upscale Car Reduces Speeding Fine

January 13, 2000

OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Norwegians expressed outrage Thursday after a court reduced a millionaire’s sentence for speeding because of the high quality of his car.

Fritz Hjelmeland, 61, was clocked by police at 88 mph in an 50 mph zone near the west coast town of Aalesund in October, according to media reports. Under Norway’s strict traffic laws, that would be grounds for a mandatory jail sentence plus a fine. Prosecutors had argued that Hjelmeland should be jailed for three weeks.

Instead, the local preliminary court reduced Hjelmeland’s sentence, partly because he was driving a 350-horsepower Mercedes 500 SE.

``The driver was experienced and he was driving a car that handles well at high speed,″ the court said in its ruling Wednesday. It gave Hjelmeland a suspended sentence and a $1,250 fine.

Johannes Mehammer of the national traffic police called the ruling reprehensible.

``I can’t go along with someone getting a reduced sentence because he was driving a fancy car,″ he was quoted as telling Norway’s largest newspaper, Verdens Gang.

The reports said Hjelmeland probably won’t even notice the fine. His taxable wealth last year was about $8.4 million.