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Red Light Cameras: Legal or Unconstitutional?

Let's take a deeper look into this hot-button issue in Florida.

One of my favorite targets for my stories is my own father.  He is the antithesis of an attorney. He never listens to a single thing I say. He will call me for legal advice. I will give him legal advice for free. He will then tell me that I am absolutely wrong and hang up on me. He is also getting older and his eyes are getting worse. He has trouble reading a menu and refuses to use glasses.

Recently he gave me an envelope where there was a picture of him running a red light in a left-hand turn somewhere that I choose to keep anonymous. Attached was a ticket for $158.00 unless he contested the ticket.

Now, I must brag a little bit: I have more than perfect vision: I see from 10 feet like most people see from 20 feet. To me it was clear the light was red, that he was in the middle of the intersection, and so I recommended that he simply pay the fine. My father looked long and hard at the photo and said, “yea, Jeremy, you’re wrong. I don’t see the red” (recall eyesight issues above).

So my father took the ticket to an officer in the county that remains anonymous and the officer agreed. The ticket was dropped. But then my father asked a great question: “Why can a camera make me pay?”

My initial thought was that photographic evidence and video evidence is far more reliable than witness testimony. But there is no one behind the camera. It is automated.

We know that radar guns are used to detect our speed, but we have someone behind the gun. We know those scary TSA machines that show all my birthday secrets to some CIA or FBI agents (according to some conspiracy theorists) while I am in the airport are at least accompanied by an officer.

So how do we contest these “red light cameras” when they are completely automated?

The issue seems to be heating up in the State of Florida. As it stands now, red light cameras are legal. In 2010, red-light camera operations were approved by amending or creating at least 13 separate sections of Florida Statutes: Chapter 316, Chapter 318, Chapter 321, and Chapter 322.

However, in 2005 when the red-light camera issue was first getting warm, Attorney General Charlie Christ issued an opinion that red light traffic tickets could not be issued without an officer present. (AGO 2005-41 dated July 12, 2005). The Attorney General’s 2005 legal position seems to have been taken seriously now as there are at least two cases on Florida’s eastern coast that are challenging the red light camera laws. One case that is easy to track is City of Aventura v. Masone, Case No. 3D10-1094 (Fla. 3d DCA). According to my research, the Court has not yet made a determination on the constitutionality of the red light camera laws. The other case appears to still be at the trial level as a class action in Orlando.

So, from my professional perspective, the Florida law that allows for red-light cameras is in full force and effect until further notice. One should not ignore the tickets. You can choose to pay the fine, contest the fine, or fight the law while contesting the fine. My father was successful by simply bringing the photograph to the sheriff’s office. Of course the validity may change completely depending on the court’s ruling in the coming months.

Perhaps the easiest way to avoid the red-light camera situation is to stop at red lights. There are sources to find the red-light cameral intersections if you are a “yellow light” enthusiast. For example, Pasco County Clerk of Court has published this online source.

I found a local attorney based on my internet searches who posted this:  http://www.helpgoodpeople.com/lawyer-attorney-1809274.html

I found this information for Hillsborough County Red Light Cameras: http://hillsboroughcounty.org/redforreason/home.cfm

Of course I always drive the speed limit, slow down at all yellow lights, and abide by all traffic laws, so I do not have any personal information regarding this subject (insert weird yellow smiley face thingy from my text messages here). Hopefully, my father will get in a bit of trouble next week for a new story.

Jimmy January 06, 2013 at 01:44 AM
NEVER pay the original "Notice of Violation" for $158. its NOT a real uniform traffic ticket (UTC). these notices are sent from American Traffic Solutions, a private company in Arizona. If you pay this first notice, the comoany shares the profits with the State/County. This Arizona company has no business compelling Florida residents to send them money. Ignore the first letter and wait for the UTC. Then go to court and plead "no contest" which will usually be $100, significantly less than the $158. Essentially this lower fine cuts out the Arizona company, Why should they profit from us Floridians. If you made a right turn on red without stopping, you likely didnt break any laws. You do not have to stop on a red when making a right turn thats enforced by a red light camera. Google the first paragraph of the Mark Wendall Traffic Law in the Florida Statutes. If your tuen was careful and prudent, you should plead "not guilty". wait it out until your hearing and youll likely get the case dismissed, They (the Arizona company and the county) just hope youll pay the fine and they get your money. when you stand up for yourself, you have a good chance to beat it. Also, the state has 180 days from the date of your violation to prove you guilty at a hearing. if your final hearing date is after 180 days, its a "due process" violation and you can ask to have the case dismissed.
Jimmy January 06, 2013 at 01:46 AM
process: 1. "Notice of Violation" sent from private company in Arizona $158. (IGNORE THIS LETTER AND WAIT FOR THE UTC). within 30 days... 2. The county may or may not issue you an actual UTC via certified mail. Fine goes up to about $190. (DONT PAY IT. REQUEST AN ARRAIGNMENT INSTEAD). 30-60 days 3. Attend your arraignment. Judge will likely allow you to pay $100 if you plead 'no contest'. ($100 IS MUCH LESS THAN $158 AND NONE OF IT GOES TO THE GREEDY ARIZONA COMPANY). if you plead 'no contest' or 'guilty', the judge will withhold adjudication which means you wont get any points and no insurance hike. BY IGNORING THE FIRST VIOLATION, YOULL PAY LESS MONEY ($100 vs $158), youll cut out the Arizona company, and youll get to pay your fine 3-5 months later. If your violation was for a "careful" and "prudent" right turn on red, you can plead 'not guilty' and go to your hearing. Your odds are very good that the actual hearing will be more than 180 days past your violation. If so, you can have your case dismissed due to "speedy trial" violation. If its within 180 days, you can argue why your turn was careful and prudent and try to win your case. Worst case scenario is youll end up paying $250-$300 if you lose. If you think u have no chance of winning, the judge usually gives you ONE more chance to plead "no contest" before the cop introduces the evidence. this last chance will usually be about a $200 fine which is slightly more than the $158, but it might be worth it

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