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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 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.

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.

Do you know where the are?

What is your stance on this hot-button issue? Participate in the poll we posted this morning to see how you compare with your neighbors.

Grant Rimbey November 08, 2011 at 05:56 PM
"nuff said: http://templeterrace.patch.com/articles/red-light-camera-captures-crash#video-8373209
Jamie Robe November 08, 2011 at 07:46 PM
I am all for freedom - but it comes with responsibility too. In this case, if you are driving and abiding by the law, you have nothing to fear from these cameras. If you habitually run red lights, make rolling stops into heavily trafficked highways, or just go "lala" in the head as you are talking or texting on a cell phone while driving - then you are out of luck. Come on people, this is like a commercial airline pilot contesting the flight data recorder. Now, I do feel it is important to voice something people should keep in mind. EVERYONE at some time or other makes a mistake or has a lapse in judgement. We are not computers, so it is possible that even the most moral, ethical, law abiding citizen in Temple Terrace will get a ticket for something. I just hope it is a reminder ticket to slow down and stop, instead of an after-the-fact reminder post crash.
Brian Ceccarelli November 09, 2011 at 07:39 PM
Even when you drive and abide by the law, you will STILL get a ticket. Because the "law" enforces a DOT standard which literally forces everyone to run red lights. This standard is the ITE Yellow Interval Formula. It is a formula which the DOT uses to set the length of yellow lights. It is a formula which violates the laws of physics. It eventually forces everyone to run red lights in turn lanes and at intersections which have another intersection close by. In a nutshell, the formula forbids drivers to proceed into the intersection at speeds less than the speed limit. If you have to slow down for any reason, as in preparation to make a turn, your DOT will force you to the run the red light. There are no exceptions. In North Carolina, the Town of Cary has given out more red light camera tickets than the population of Cary. Over 130,000 tickets. 99.9999% of these tickets are from turning drivers and from drivers at adjacent intersections.
Brian Ceccarelli November 09, 2011 at 07:51 PM
The only way to make cities wake up to the engineering failure, a failure which kills and maimes people in addition to unjustly penalizing millions of innocent drivers, is to SUE the city for all the dollars it as stolen. It is unfortunate that you have to do this, but cities will not listen to this argument because no one in the city knows physics, nor do they want to give up their cash cow. It also turns out that traffic engineers don't know physics either. Show the ITE Yellow Light Formula to a physicist, and he will immediately see the failure. Even the author of the formula wrote that an engineer cannot apply this formula to turn lanes and close-by intersections. That the yellow time has to be up to 2x longer than the formula provides. I am a physicist, and I got flashed once too many times. For all the information you need to sue your city, see http://redlightrobber.com.
Grant Rimbey November 09, 2011 at 08:47 PM
Per Jeremy Simons article above: "Perhaps the easiest way to avoid the red light camera situation is to stop at red lights." The issue is really that simple.
Brian Ceccarelli November 10, 2011 at 01:06 AM
Redflex, ACS, ATS and every red light camera company in the world rely on science uneducated people like Grant Rimbey. There are millions of people like Grant, and that is why the scam works. When a City Council passes a law forbidding gravity, then Grant RImbey will tell everyone "the easiest way to avoid getting a ticket, is to not walk on the ground." That is what Grant proposes, but Grant does not know physics to know that that is what he proposed. The City's yellow light duration standard violates F = ma; from this same law is another law which expresses gravity. The only safe thing to do, is for all DOTs to increase the yellow light duration to the time it takes a driver to stop. Oh! Grant Rimbey didn't know that? The DOT sets the yellow light duration to HALF the time it takes Grant to stop. Half! Your DOT sets it to the time it takes you to traverse the safe braking distance at the speed limit. At the speed limit! Not less than the speed limit. Think about that. The duration of the yellow forbids a car to slow down before entering the intersection. Now consider turning drivers.
Grant Rimbey November 10, 2011 at 09:12 PM
Dear Brian, a degree in physics is not needed to stop for a red light.
Kent A March 06, 2012 at 08:25 AM
It is easy for people to point fingers and say, "just drive correctly", since most people believe they are great drivers. The fact is that only a small fraction of drivers can drive their whole life without ever getting a ticket. They pushed these laws through under the premise that it makes intersections safer. How can getting a citation 3 weeks after the fact (when you couldn't possibly remember what happened) make intersections safer. Our constitution works under the premise of "innocent until PROVEN guilty". How does mailing a ticket to the owner of the offending vehicle work under the constitution? At best they also need a picture of the driver, but the flash of that camera would more than likely cause even more accidents. Put simply, this is a TAX, benefitting local governments and the private companies who these citations are subcontracted out to. People seem all too happy to give up our rights (freedom) for the false sense of safety. It's a slippery slope. Where will it end?
Ashley Reams March 08, 2012 at 06:23 PM
I've had to remove some comments because they did not comply with our Terms of Use. We encourage comments, but before you click "Submit," please make sure your comments won't considered offensive. Thank you.
Quentin March 09, 2012 at 02:41 AM
how is welcome to the Rimbey patch offensive? It's accurate This is the Rimbey patch and all things Rimbey, If you do not agree with Rimbey The editor G. Rimbey removes it he just removes it through you.
Michael September 27, 2012 at 06:22 PM
the fact is in Mexico the yellow at some intersection is less than half a second the reason? they make money off tickets ,you cant stop in half a second at the speed limit , think about it, the DOT say the longer the yellow the less accidents but when some cities found out that the shorter the yellow the higher the revenue they actually shortened the yellow lights at the corners with cameras putting people at risk to make money never trust the government to do what is right where money is concerned at court yesterday a man brought video of the lights at 2.8 seconds at the intersection where CAL-TRANS said it should be 3.6. this is for money, one intersection in Los Angeles made 1.4 million in 10 months wow !!! to understand this imagine there were no yellow than everyone would get a ticket eventually now Cali has passed a law requiring a one second increase in the yellow light . why would they have to make it a law if the cities were just doing what was in the best interest of the people? because they aren't !!!!!! absolute power corrupts absolutely! if it makes money for them when they run it corruptly , then it will be corruptly run !!! someone needs to read history books a little more!!!!!!

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