ARTICLE UPDATE: 2/25/19
Since this post was written, much has been happening in the Red Light Camera Ticket world. First of all, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in Jimenez v. State, on May 3, 2018, that the cities are within their rights to have these cameras installed and issue tickets. As soon as that ruling came down, it caused a huge blow to our (and all attorneys) ability to fight them. Basically, once that ruling came down, the courts had to allow cities to write tickets and it made it nearly impossible to fight them successfully.
Now, I say “successfully” because it has always been our philosophy at Unger & Kowitt to only charge people money to fight them IF we firmly believe that we can win them and get them thrown out. Once that ruling came down, it became obvious that Courts were no longer going to allow the attorneys to make motions or arguments to get cases thrown out. Therefore, in almost every instance, we stopped handling these types of cases.
The one exception is if you received a Red Light Camera Ticket and forgot about it, or missed your deadline to pay the $158. If that did happen to you, your notice of violation automatically turned into a Uniform Traffic Citation and now you must pay $277.00 AND you will receive a mark on your driving record. We are fighting those mainly to keep the adjudication from appearing on your driving record, which we can do. But again, if you have the option of paying $158, we still recommend that at the moment because it’s the better and cheaper option.
If you notice, I did write “at the moment” because as you write this, new challenges are being made to the way some cities are ticketing drivers. Mainly, those making a right turn on red, and I believe those will be successful soon. As soon as that’s the case, I will blog again and keep you posted.
So in the meantime, as I encouraged you do to then, I’m still repeating, write to your congressman or woman and tell them how you feel about these things. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that they are legal, that might be the only solution left to finally getting rid of these things.
As long as there have been red light cameras in Florida, we’ve been trying to help people fight back against what we feel is a blatant disregard of driver’s constitutional rights.
We’ve encouraged people to write to their congressperson and tell them to vote against these money grubbing cameras that got installed in the name of public safety.
I’ve personally written at least a dozen or more blog articles detailing my disdain for the way in which these things ticket Florida drivers.
We’ve helped thousands of people successfully fight to have their red light camera tickets thrown out, and perhaps that was part of the problem. Collectively, everyone who successfully fought back and demanded justice has only caused the company that installed these cameras to lose money. As you can imagine, private companies designed to make money don’t like to lose money.
By fighting back and winning, we’ve cost this company millions of dollars in costs to defend these tickets and in lost revenue, and they didn’t like it. So what do you think they did?
You guessed it, they poured even more millions into the pockets of our legislators in the form of aggressive lobbying and lo and behold, on July 1, 2013, a new version of the red light camera law has emerged.
Bigger, meaner, nastier. Here’s why.
Prior to July 1, any ticket issued for a right turn on red, could only be issued if the driver did not proceed with caution. “Reasonable and Prudent” were the buzzwords. It was not necessary for you to come to a complete stop, as long as the video showed you slowing down and proceeding with caution.
Apparently, with zero evidence to prove that it was unsafe to require people to merely slow down and proceed with caution, they were able to get the law changed to now require a full and complete stop before making a right turn.
Don’t forget, when these cameras were being installed, all we heard about was how safe they were going to make these intersections. No one bothered to check how much safer they would be if they merely delayed the yellow light for an extra few seconds. And, of course, the change in the right on red law was clearly a solution looking for a problem.
But, what you must understand is that the “loophole” of not requiring people to come to a complete stop was costing American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the company that installed those cameras, millions of dollars. So, from now on, if you don’t come to a complete stop at a red light camera intersection, get ready to pay up.
At least $158.00. I say at least $158 because that’s another change in the law that went unnoticed. If you choose to fight your ticket, you could be in for a shock.
In the past when you chose to fight your red light ticket, you would get the opportunity to appear before a county court traffic judge. This judge was either elected by the people or appointed by the governor. This judge was a lawyer before becoming a judge and went to law school before becoming a lawyer. As a result, the judge fully understood the constitution, due process rights and how to apply the law to determine guilt or innocence. Sounds familiar.
However, as you can imagine, to have a judge hear these types of cases costs, you guessed it, money. And, to have a judge apply the law means there will be times the red light camera ticket will be thrown out. Well, if you are the one who loses money when that happens, you certainly would want to change that, and that’s exactly what American Traffic Solutions (ATS) was able to do.
While everyone was sleeping, ATS was able to re-write the procedure to fight red light camera tickets. Now, instead of the county courts being involved, they have figured out a way to resolve cases BEFORE the courts get involved. The new law now requires each city to establish its own hearing boards to determine the guilt or innocence of the red light ticket recipient.
If you’ve ever tried to fight a parking ticket, you’ll understand where this is going. The cities, the very same ones that will receive a portion of the proceeds from the red light camera tickets, are now the ones ruling on whether or not the ticket should be thrown out. It’s the fox guarding the hen house. It’s the inmates running the asylum.
If you’ve ever heard the expression “you can’t fight city hall” it certainly applies here. They have yet to determine if there will even be a judge with a legal background presiding over these cases. In fact, a few cities were so unprepared for these changes in the law, that they have temporarily suspended the red light camera ticket program while they get their makeshift courts up and running.
Since every city will be required to establish their own rules, we the attorneys and you the public will be forced to “learn on the fly” what it will take to try and defend red light camera tickets in each city. There will be no rules of evidence that have been established by the supreme court, not due process as established by the constitution, and certainly no consistency between cities. By agreeing to have your case heard in this forum, you agree to waive many defenses that would be available to you in a “real court” of law. Additionally, each city is allowed to set their own fine should you fight the ticket and lose (which I’m sorry to say, at the moment you probably will). These fines can go as high as $400 if you dare to fight and lose. Starting to see the problem that’s been created.
If paying the ticket and choosing to fight the ticket don’t seem like good options, there will be a third, less promoted option and it’s the one I encourage everyone to take.
Do nothing. That’s right, I said ignore it. But not forever. (don’t call me when your license gets suspended and tell me I told you to do nothing). What I mean is, do not fight the ticket with the city and do not pay it. By doing this, you will force the ticket to turn from a notice of violation into a uniform traffic citation which you can then fight in a real court of law.
Let me explain.
When you run a red light and a camera takes your picture, ATS will send you something called a notice of violation. It is not a ticket at this point. It is merely a piece of paper telling you that you ran the light and you have to pay $158. If you do that, there will be no points on your record. The notice will only tell you that your two options are to pay the fine or fight. What it won’t tell you is that choosing to fight will mean you will be fighting it in one of those “kangaroo courts” I detailed above.
And what the notice also won’t tell you is that if you ignore the “notice of violation,” you will receive via certified mail a “uniform traffic citation.” This uniform traffic citation is an actual traffic ticket and can be taken to court where you may have a chance. I say “may” because as they say, the jury is still out. Time will tell, but we’ll keep fighting and we’ll keep you posted.
If you have a red light camera ticket that was issued prior to July 1, 2013 or if you received a uniform traffic citation after July 1, 2013, please give us a call at 866-374-8355, and we’ll be happy to give you a free consultation.