Red light traffic cameras have been the bane of many drivers for a number of years now. Since 2007, the State of Florida has relied on these traffic cameras to supplement (to a tremendous degree) the income of the various municipalities that employ their use. This is in spite of the fact that the constitutionality of using them has always been in question. In fact, it wasn’t until 2010 that the matter was even addressed legally. Yet it seems like every time we score a small victory in getting the use of these cameras repealed, they pop up in some other town where the question of the legitimacy of their use just goes completely ignored. Many drivers in Coral Springs probably sighed with relief when the city took down the red light traffic cameras which it has installed at seven traffic locations. Unfortunately for motorists in this city, it seems it was only a temporary reprieve. Apparently, the cameras were not functioning properly which is the reason for their removal. It seems that the cameras “performance and accuracy” were of concern. This is something that has been a matter of consideration for all of us about the use of red light traffic cameras, but many city governments don’t seem to be listening.
By example, Coral Springs doesn’t intend to do away with its program, as so many had hoped. Instead, they intend to hire the same Arizona-based company, American Traffic Solutions (ATS) that so many other Florida cities use to install and monitor red light traffic cameras. This is the same company that is currently under examination for its practice of issuing traffic citations to Florida drivers by a non-law enforcement individual. The constitutionality of this practice is constantly under scrutiny and the practice has been dragged through the court system for years. A recent newspaper article reported that Boynton Beach is also is still using red light traffic cameras, and intends to continue their use even though almost 60 of the tickets issued due to them were dismissed by a traffic court hearing officer last week. The response from city officials was basically, “So what?” They intend to continue to issue these tickets, in spite of the ruling. Considering that had the tickets not been dismissed, the city would have garnered almost $9,500 in fines, it’s easy to understand what motivates them to continue this practice.
“We’re continuing business as usual,” said Commissioner Joe Casello on Wednesday. “We’re still issuing tickets and going through the process.” If not for the financial gain that these red light traffic cameras offer to the towns that use them, it is hard to fathom why some places so stubbornly hold on to the practice. The argument that they increase public safety falls apart when you consider that so many cities have instituted and then canceled their red light traffic camera programs. Boca Raton, Margate, and Hallandale Beach have all joined in opting out of the legal sticky wicket that red light camera traffic tickets create. This obstinate noncompliance on the part of Boynton Beach officials comes on the heels of not only the mass dismissal of traffic tickets, but also in the wake of the 4th District Court of Appeal’s refusal to revisit an October ruling pertaining to traffic cameras in Hollywood. This ruling found that Florida cities cannot empower third-parties with the authority to issue traffic tickets, yet both Boynton Beach and Hollywood continue to issue red light traffic camera tickets.
These legal actions seem to be falling upon deaf ears in many communities as evidenced by a November vote in Boynton Beach to continue to support their contract with ATS. ATS has installed, and continues to maintain, the 15 red light traffic cameras that are operating in Boynton Beach, as well as the cameras in Hollywood. That’s a pretty sweet deal for this company when you consider the cost of installing these cameras, how much they get to maintain them, and the percentage of the $158 fine they get for each traffic ticket that is issued due to the cameras. The rationale of these towns in continuing to use this method of issuing traffic citations is when ATS sends the citations to the towns that they are issued for, that police officers then review them, thereby making them legal. The courts seem to be increasingly leaning in the other direction on the subject which is why so many of these traffic citations were recently dismissed. Boynton Beach failed to prove that their red light traffic camera tickets are issued any differently from any other Florida towns that use ATS. I always advocate that drivers should fight their traffic tickets even though I know that it is really easy to become intimidated by the legal system. Many people think that you just can’t win when it comes to a traffic ticket. Drivers should, however, keep in mind that even though only 5% of traffic tickets are fought in court, a large number of the tickets that are defended are done so successfully. Consequently, when it comes to the legal controversy surrounding traffic camera tickets, the shaky ground upon which they are based makes it more likely that a good traffic ticket attorney can get your ticket dismissed or reduced.
Don’t just pay that fine because with the way things look, sooner or later these cameras are bound to become illegal. When that happens, it may be mandated that those motorists who have paid traffic tickets as a result of these cameras get a refund of any fines paid. However, the bureaucracy that would surround such a legal mess would probably make it virtually impossible to expect to actually receive a refund. When you factor in a third party vendor such as ATS, things really get hairy. Not only would the state have to work out a system to ensure refunds to motorists, but I can assure you that the vendor is not going to happily part with any funds that it feels it earned by installing and maintaining the cameras, and then issuing the tickets. The Pandora’s Box that would be opened by such a scenario would be tremendous. It’s a lot smarter to hold on to your funds and let a good traffic ticket attorney resolve this matter before that scenario unfolds. If you have been one of the unfortunate souls to have received a red light traffic camera ticket, give me a call at 967-954-9888 for a free consultation. It is certainly easier to consult with me than wait for the system to finally fix itself and hope for a refund.