By on August 27, 2009

A number of Florida cities that rushed to install red light cameras without legislative authorization now face legal challenge. Florida attorney Jack L. Townsend, Sr joined with the firm Edwards and Ragatz on July 30 in filing a class action lawsuit against the city of Temple Terrace for allowing American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to operate a traffic camera program designed to generate $3 million in annual revenue primarily from vehicles turning right on red lights. Because the state legislature has consistently declined to allow automated ticketing, the legal status of such systems has even been questioned by the leading photo enforcement vendor. “Legal opinions indicate that automated enforcement in the state of Florida remains illegal,” Redflex Traffic Systems explained in an Australian Securities Exchange filing (view statement, page 6, 1.8mb PDF). “Some competitors have proceeded at risk with early programs.”


Townsend’s primary argument against Temple Terrace is that state law already covers the infraction of red light running and Section 316.007 of Florida statutes does not allow municipalities to “enact or enforce any ordinance on a matter covered by this chapter unless expressly authorized.” A 2005, ruling by then-Attorney General Charlie Crist (now governor) advanced the same argument (view ruling).

Like other Florida cities, Temple Terrace claims to “get around” this restriction by creating its own type of ordinance violation that is adjudicated by a newly created red light camera “hearing officer.” Townsend argues that the state constitution gave the legislature exclusive jurisdiction over the civil traffic hearing officer system and it cannot just create a quasi-judicial system on a whim.

“No other courts may be established by the state, any political subdivision or any municipality,” Article 5, Section 1 of the Florida Constitution states.

Because Temple Terrace cannot use state law to enforce its camera tickets, the city’s ordinance states that a vehicle owner who fails to pay a citation will be “denied any rights and privileges that such person may otherwise be entitled to enjoy, receive, or benefit from the city of Temple Terrace, including… the right to utilize municipal facilities, and the right to obtain any licenses or permits contemplated in the code.” Townsend argues that this punishment is excessive and violates the due process rights of vehicle owners.

In 2007, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled against an argument nearly identical to that of Temple Terrace based on a law, also part of Florida’s code, requiring uniformity in traffic laws (view ruling).

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12 Comments on “Florida: Lawsuits Challenge Red Light Camera Legality...”


  • avatar
    texlovera

    I suggest application of tar, followed by feathers.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Add this city to the do not visit list.

    Unchecked government at it’s finest. I think as citizens we deserve a face to face meeting with a cop over a traffic infraction. subjects in other countries learn to like what they put up with.

  • avatar
    Samuel L. Bronkowitz

    How about some cameras strategically placed in the chambers of the idiots foisting this nonsense on us? Let’s issue them a citation every time they pass some stupid, privacy-invading tax increase masquerading as a “law”

    (followed, naturally, by texlovera‘s suggested tarring and feathering…)

  • avatar

    @GS650G: Unchecked government at it’s finest. I think as citizens we deserve a face to face meeting with a cop over a traffic infraction. subjects in other countries learn to like what they put up with.

    Amen. The reason we have traffic police is to make rational decisions about the level of “crime” which is taking place. 90 in a 65 on a clear road with no traffic is different from the same speed in a rainy rush hour. Several years ago, I had a new car and was on a very empty portion of freeway. I stretched her legs a little, touching triple digits, then backed off. A Highway Patrolman pulled me over a couple of miles ahead and said I needed to watch better in front of me, then said, “Well the highway’s empty, and if I had a new car, I’d probably want to check it out as well.” At a time the speed limit was still 55, he wrote me for 65 in a 55 and wished me a good day. I got the message…

    The objective of traffic enforcement is to reduce injuries and fatalities. Why not start with the folks who are going the speed limit while putting on makeup, texting boy/girlfriends, or making notes on their dashboard notepad?

  • avatar
    menno

    I hate to sound like a broken record, but what part of the United States Constitution don’t most of these lawmakers read or understand? (rhetorical question but the answer is “all of it”)

    We actually have a right, as a citizen, to confront our accuser and defend ourselves in court. Or, let me rephrase that; we’re supposed to have that right.

    Automated cameras are simply therefore against the true intent of the prime law of the land.

    Of course, this doesn’t take into account the reality of what goes on with the corruption we see by those who lordoverus.

    Tar & feathering is too good for most of them…

    Talk about “teaching moments” – when will we collectively, as a once free people, “get it” that we can actually only stop this kind of thing by NOT voting in twiddle dee (Demoncrats) or twiddle dum (Repugnicans), which are simply two sides of the same coin?

    My wife has given up and doesn’t think Americans are bright enough to get this simple concept (which I’ve been railing about for, oh, 30 years to virtually no good effect). Perhaps BO, aided by the memory of Bush, will help turn the tide. Assuming of course, that our future elections are any better than the Chicago type (since we’re getting Chicago thug politics writ large nation wide right now). Acorn thugs, anyone? Vote when dead and often, Demoncrats only?

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Hang on, I thought you were allowed to turn right on a red light? That’s what I did, when I was out there.

    Or will there be a a stack of tickets waiting for me, then next time I turn up at the border?

  • avatar
    EEGeek

    You are allowed to turn right on red in most places. After a complete stop. But roll through at a couple of miles per hour, and I guess you need to say “cheese”.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    We actually have a right, as a citizen, to confront our accuser and defend ourselves in court. Or, let me rephrase that; we’re supposed to have that right.

    The Confrontation Right has gotten stronger in recent years, led by the coalition of Justices Scalia, Thomas, Stevens, Ginsburg, and Souter, who consistently vote to expand it. It’s an interesting question whether Justice Scalia’s recent opinion in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts stating that you have the right to confront a forensic scientist who prepares a lab report would extend to something like red light cameras. It’s a also an interesting question of whether Justice Sotomayor will vote like Justice Souter on the question.

    The reason we have traffic police is to make rational decisions about the level of “crime” which is taking place.

    You can understand why people afraid that cops are racially biased are leery of that approach, though, right?

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Amen. The reason we have traffic police is to make rational decisions about the level of “crime” which is taking place.

    Are traffic violations even violations of laws? Or, are they like health code violations, violations of regulations written to interpret and enforce the meaning of the law?

  • avatar
    GS650G

    In some states they rise to the level of misdemeanors. And I’m talking about speeding and such.

    I know people who cheer the speed and red light cameras on because they ticket bad guys but they lose sight of the simple fact the government has to play by rules. Rules we voted on, lived by and they agree to uphold. It’s a promise and they take an oath.

    Next battleground will be over GPS tracking. Count on speeding tickets, even a lane change without a turn signal could conceivably be detected. It all depends on how far the system goes and how accurate the location is. If they get it down to 18 inches for consumer stuff then they could do it. The military can go that low, civilian applications are limited to a few feet.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    GS650G>

    I’m guessing if GPS tracking comes in to play, and I could get an insurance discount, I’d probably do it — esp if it can’t be fitted to older motorcycles :)

    I’d then trade in my sports car for something silly/small and use the left over cash + my old bike to snag a litrebike.

    It seems no matter if it benefits or hinders, motorcyclists are left behind.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    The inability to track motorcycles may just be the way to stop GPS tracking. After all, it’s un-equal application of the law.

    Unless they outlaw motorcycles. And bicycles. And walking.


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