unger & kowitt logo with red light camera cartoon

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 cities are within their rights to have 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 beat 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.

So, how does this relate to anyone out there that received a Red Light Ticket and was looking for a refund because lower court rulings had determined they were written improperly? What do you think? Because the Supreme Court gave them the “green” light (sorry, couldn’t help myself), I would think the Class Action lawsuits would dissolve. I’ll keep you posted if I hear differently, but like I wrote in the original post, getting money back from the government is nearly impossible, so don’t hold your breath.

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If you’ve received a red light camera ticket in Florida in the past few years, you may be aware of a ruling against the city of Hollywood that deemed their red light camera program unconstitutional.

Finally, those of us who have felt tickets issued by machines instead of humans (and issued to the owner of the vehicle and not the driver) had so many inherent flaws that they couldn’t possibly be legal, were given hope.

Hope that red light cameras would disappear forever; hope that we’d never see speeding ticket cameras; hope that the rules that have been around for centuries (i.e. the right to confront your accuser, due process, notice and the right to be heard, innocent until proven guilty, etc. . . ), weren’t being taken away from us.

Sadly, that was not the case.

Because there’s way too much money at stake, every other city of Florida continued writing red light camera tickets in the hopes that they would be able to keep the money generated in their cities.

Immediately, plenty of class action lawsuits were formed because people who had heard about the ruling wanted a refund. Makes perfect sense. If the tickets should not have been written, then those people who received and red light camera ticket and paid it should get their money back.

Let me ask you, how many times have you ever gotten money back from the government? Exactly. Those suits continue to travel through the courts, and if I was one of those people hoping for a refund, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

During this time, the city of Aventura altered the way their red light camera ticket program worked and in a recent lawsuit against them, the courts ruled that the changes they made were sufficient and their tickets were deemed permissible.

What a mess. So basically, each city is going to have to be sued so that they can prove to the courts that they are either behaving like Hollywood or like Aventura, or something else entirely.

In the meantime, the ruling in the city of Aventura was sent up to the Supreme Court so we may finally get a definitive answer.

But none of this should affect the class action lawsuit. At the moment, there is no question that the city of Hollywood was acting improperly when it issued its red-light camera tickets. If they end up changing their procedure, that should not affect all the tickets that were written improperly.

Refunds should have immediately gone out to those aggrieved. However, because the money is split between a public and private entity, I’m afraid there will be very little if any money coming back to the innocent victims.

For now, if you get a red light camera ticket, don’t pay it. My firm will be happy to view the video for free and discuss your best option. As to the class action lawsuits . . . we’ll keep you posted.

For more questions regarding Red Light Traffic Tickets and other Florida Violations, please contact us direct 866-374-8355

red light camera sign

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 lower 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 beat 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 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 read 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.

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Finally, some good news in the fight against Red Light Camera Tickets in Florida. Today, the Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled that it is NOT legal for the cities to continue to issue Red Light Camera Tickets in the manner in which they have been issuing them. The full ruling can be viewed here.

A very quick recap for those of you who have not been reading my blog (where have you been?). The cities in Florida have been doing business with a private company in Arizona, American Traffic Solutions (ATS), who has been sending tickets to Florida drivers for years and splitting the money with the cities and counties.

I have been screaming that this is wrong for years. No single issue has generated more anti-government comments both on our blog and from calls to the office. People have been fed up and we have been fighting thousands of Red Light Camera Tickets for these people.

There have been many challenges to date that have not always worked out, but lawyers have been continuing to fight and today, they were able to score a major victory.

In a nutshell, ATS (a private vendor), was reviewing the videos and alerting local cities to violations so that tickets could be issued. The courts ruled that the cities DO NOT have the right to delegate police work to a private company.

In their ruling, they wrote, “In Florida, only law enforcement officers and traffic enforcement officers have the legal authority to issue citations.” They continued by reinforcing their point by stating, “The statute does not authorize a private vendor to issue citations, either expressly or impliedly.”

Now, what does this mean in the long term? Short term? Too soon to tell. Here’s why. This ruling is only in the 4th District Court of Appeals, which only includes Broward, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River, and Okeechobee Counties. This ruling can be used in other counties, but it’s up to each judge in those counties if they want to follow the ruling.

Additionally, this ruling only applies to those cities that were issuing Red Light Camera Tickets in the exact same manner as the city of Hollywood (allowing the private company to determine if a violation occurred). It is possible, the city of Hollywood was the only one operating this way or that they have changed their procedures since this ticket was written.

Obviously, we will immediately begin to question every city employee as to their Red Light Camera Ticket procedure to determine if this ruling applies. It is another weapon in our arsenal against these terrible money grabbing cities.

Keep checking back for further information. This doesn’t mean the battle has been won, but today is a day to celebrate. Enjoy.

Do you have a Red Light Camera Ticket? Now might be a great time to fight it. We offer a FREE consultation. Call us at 866-374-8355.

Red light camera "Photo Enforced" traffic sign

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.

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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.

Here’s why:

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.

Suspended Florida Driver License

More and more, we are being contacted by people who are receiving letters from the State of Florida telling them that their license is about to be suspended due to an unpaid ticket.

In most of these instances, the person calling sounds shocked and in a panic.

When we get calls like this, my office knows almost immediately what the cause is, and we begin the process of explaining to the person that it is very likely that they (or someone driving their car) got caught by a red light camera and a ticket was issued in their name (as owner of the vehicle).

I’ve detailed extensively my frustrations with these red-light cameras and my feelings on why these are unconstitutional, and here is yet another example. When these cameras were being sold to the legislature, one of the ways they got around the requirement that an actual police officer hand the ticket to the guilty party, was by removing the possibility of points on the license. They were presented as glorified parking tickets, with a price escalator if not paid timely.

The only problem is that if you don’t pay a parking ticket (either because it blew off your car or you just thought you could get away with not paying), you don’t run the risk of having your license suspended.

Here, if you don’t pay a red light camera ticket, not only does the price go up almost 75%, but your license gets suspended.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re sitting there and saying to yourself, “Well, something should be done to people who don’t pay their tickets.” You’re right. No one is suggesting that we create a nation of scofflaws by allowing people to avoid paying for their sins. But all of this assumes one very important fact:

That everyone gets every piece of mail sent to them

What we are starting to see are people who live in a multi-unit dwelling where the mailman won’t deliver the mail if the apartment number isn’t on the address, people who live in a house where mail is thrown out or misplaced, and people whose mail service is just not reliable (let’s face it, US mail is not 100% reliable unless it’s tracked by a signature).

Currently, there is no requirement that these tickets be mailed via certified mail or any other method that requires a signature. Until they require proof that it was received by the intended recipient, I have a difficult time with the severe punishment of taking away a person’s right to drive.

There’s also the emails that I’m getting from people who say they think they went through a red light and saw a flash and aren’t sure what to do. They keep waiting and waiting for something to arrive in the mail, but nothing comes and they are afraid they missed the mailing and don’t want their license to be suspended.

There must be a better system than to burden well-meaning citizens, than to force them to check a website and their mailbox every day wondering if a ticket is going to appear.

The whole thing stinks in my opinion. This is what happens when you let money dictate policy. These cameras were rushed through without all the details worked out and Floridians are left to pick up the missing pieces. Oh, and if it costs you an extra hundred dollars and perhaps leads to you getting thrown in jail for something you weren’t even aware of, well, I guess that’s just too bad for you.

Ghostbusters car driven by Slimer at red light

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 the cities to write tickets and it made it nearly impossible to fight them successfully.

Now, I say it’s almost impossible to fight “successfully” it is 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 beat 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.

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In my almost 20 years of helping people with their traffic tickets, no ticket has caused as much anger, frustration, and confusion as the red light camera ticket. There are many reasons, but at the very top of the list might simply be that red light camera tickets, unlike any other traffic ticket, are often issued to the person who was not driving.

Let me repeat that. You can get a ticket that will wind up on YOUR driver’s license EVEN IF YOU WERE NOT DRIVING.

This is what it’s come to folks. This is like having to pay someone else’s mortgage when you don’t get to live in their house.

You’ve heard the expression, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time!” Well, in the case of red light camera tickets, the expression might as well be “We don’t care who’s doing the crime, we found a loophole and the owner of the vehicle is going to pay every time.” Not quite as catchy, I admit, but it’s more accurate.

You might be wondering how we got here. Since the beginning of time, traffic tickets including red light tickets were given by a police officer and handed to a person who was behind the wheel. Like many things where technology is involved, just because something can be done doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be done.

You see, all of this nonsense was started after a private company in Arizona spent millions lobbying our representatives in Tallahassee when our financial picture was at a low point. Cities and municipalities desperate for a few extra bucks were all too eager to embrace a deal that seemed “too good to be true.” And like many deals made out of desperation, when times change, you look back and wonder what you were thinking.

Our legislators were talked into a deal that allowed this private company to set up equipment that didn’t have to photograph the driver of the vehicle (as that would probably cost extra), just the license plate; and through a quick search of the records, identify the owner, and BAM, out went the ticket and in came the revenue.

Just like that, these things were popping up all over the place.

And they have statistics that claim accidents are down, so it must be a good thing. No one ever bothered to check whether what was happening was a violation of the constitution.

I would argue accidents would come down if we lowered the speed limit on the highway from 65 in many areas to 45, but no one’s clamoring for that. I would argue that accidents would be way down if they brought back the inspections and removed from the roadways, all the cars that have bald tires, no windshield wipers, faulty brakes or broken lights; but no one’s lobbying for those to return either.

You see, I’m all for public safety. In fact, I would have no problem with more police officers on our roadways, as I believe a visual police presence keeps people in line and makes people feel safer. However, since the advent of these red light camera tickets, there are actually less police on the roads and more sitting in air-conditioned rooms watching video to help determine if someone actually ran a light.

Which goes back to the point of the article which is when an officer hands you a ticket, everyone involved agrees it’s being given to the person who allegedly committed the violation.

How would you feel if you were a passenger in the back seat, asleep while your friend drove your car and the next thing you know, you’re being woken up by a police officer handing you a ticket because your friend failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. It would be crazy and you would have every right to object.

Yet, that’s exactly what’s happening with these red light camera tickets. The way around the difficulty of proving who was actually driving was the agreement between the legislators and the private company to not add points to the person’s driving record. No points they figured would be sufficient to allow them to bend the constitution.

Sure you can try and fill out an affidavit and let them know the actual driver’s name, date of birth, driver’s license number, blood type, and favorite dish in a Chinese restaurant, all within 30 days of receiving the ticket in the mail which is not sent certified. And if they can determine who it is you’re trying to rat out, err I mean identify, they might issue the ticket in that person’s name. That sounds nice on paper, but that’s not the way the system works.

We don’t arrest innocent people and demand they tell us if they know anyone who committed a crime, that’s the job of the police.

And one of the dirty little secrets of the red light camera ticket world is that the first notification gets sent via regular mail and it requires a person to pay $158.00 and it will get treated like a parking ticket. Pay it and there will be no record. Kind of like the mob. Drop off an envelope of cash and keep walking, no one will get hurt.

However, should you not get the first notice (with our current mail, I can’t imagine that ever happening), they increase the fine almost 75% and ask you to pay almost $270.00 (and have a mark on your driving record) for the exact same violation that just 30 days ago cost $158.00. This would make any mobster blush.

And yet, as bad as all that is, there’s an entire group of people who NEVER receive the first notice and are never given the chance pay the $158.00. If you rent a car in Florida, you’ll never see the first notice. It goes to the owner of the vehicle remember. So your car rental company will get the first notice and inform them that you had the car during that time and instead of asking you to pay $158, you’ll get hit with the higher fine after back from your vacation. Talk about a souvenir.

“THANKS FOR VISITING OUR STATE, WE’RE GOING TO RIP YOU OFF ONE LAST TIME”

It’s just sad and frustrating how no one in Tallahassee has been standing up and saying this must stop. As I’ve been saying, it’s only a matter of time before speed cameras get set up and stop sign cameras get set up. Man, the Google self-driving car can’t get here fast enough.

If you received a red light camera ticket and you want to fight back, give us a call at 800-489-4125 and we’ll watch the video for free and tell you what we think.

Cars in funeral procession

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 the cities to write tickets and it made it nearly impossible to fight them successfully.

Now, I say it’s almost impossible to fight “successfully” it is 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 beat 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. Now, in the case of a funeral procession, you need to fight that one as well because the law hasn’t changed. Let’s hope the incompetence of those issuing the citations has.

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In what is perhaps the most obvious sign that cities are turning a blind eye to the law just to make a few extra bucks, here’s a story of a woman who was in a funeral procession for a family member, was waived through a red light by a police escort, and was later issued a red light camera ticket.

Continue reading “Fighting Red Light Camera Tickets Received After Funeral Procession”