By on September 23, 2009

(courtesy southeastroads.com)

A recent news report in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, gives yet another example of a red light camera ticketing an innocent driver and then leaving it up to the accused motorist to prove the ticket was undeserved. Here’s a quick overview of what happened: Troy Carter, a driver with a Louisiana license plate, received a red light camera ticket in the mail from the city of Baton Rouge. The photo showed a Blue Mercury vehicle, which was completely different from the vehicle he owned—a white GMC Yukon XL. However, both his vehicle and the Mercury shared the same license plate number. The key was that Carter’s vehicle is registered in Louisiana with Louisiana plates while the Blue Mercury is registered in Texas and has a Texas license plate. The ticket should have gone to the owner of the Blue Mercury but instead Troy Carter ended up with completely undeserved ticket out of the blue.

On its website, the city assures residents that this kind of thing won’t happen with the ticket camera program because each ticket is “evaluated by sworn members of the Police Department to verify that a violation has occurred and to determine whether a notice of violation should be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.” After this kind of mistake, they’re going to have a tough time convincing anyone that their “evaluation process” isn’t just an officer with a rubber stamp. The story didn’t end there though.

Troy Carter wrote a letter to the city that included visual proof of their mistake. However, instead of apologizing, the city’s response was basically “show up in court or pay the ticket.” That’s when Carter turned to News 2, a local TV station.

A reporter went to District Court—which is where the ticket instructed Carter to go—to ask about the citation. The employees there told him that they couldn’t help him and that he should actually go talk to City Court. Employees at City Court explained that all they deal with is collecting payments for red light camera tickets and that they couldn’t help him either.

In the end, like Troy Carter, News 2 found it impossible to figure out who was actually accountable for the red light camera appeals system in Baton Rouge. The station eventually had to go to American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the ticket camera manufacturer, to get the citation dismissed for Mr. Carter.

So how do you fight an undeserved red light camera ticket in Baton Rouge? Unfortunately, the news station wasn’t able to get that answer for their viewers. For now, there’s only one way: embarrass the ticket camera company through the local media.

[courtesy The National Motorists Association]

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29 Comments on “Ticketed LA Driver Guilty Until Proven Innocent...”


  • avatar
    rolosrevenge

    Or start torching red light cameras…

  • avatar
    TexN

    Franz Kafka’s “The Trial” comes to mind………

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    Franz Kafka’s “The Trial” comes to mind………

    Yeah…. wasn’t he driving a beetle?

  • avatar
    PickupMan

    “found it impossible to figure out who was actually accountable for the red light camera appeals system in Baton Rouge.”

    Which means he didn’t know which politician to grease.

    Lived in LA, trust me.

  • avatar
    texlovera

    As others have said recently…

    Tar. Feathers.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Guilty until proven guilty, the new American Way..

    Enjoy.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Good to see a local TV station taking this issue on…it gives the problem publicity that’s hard to ignore.

    The “automated tolling” here in Denver, though, is even worse – if the camera makes a mistake, you get a bill for $90, which you have to pay under threat of a license suspension. And there’s no court to appeal to. Just some customer service dingbat. Pay or else.

    By the way, the headline makes it sound like the ticket was in Los Angeles, not Louisiana…you might want to change that.

  • avatar
    Spitfire

    maybe this has already been talked about but what about being passive aggressive with this and using the spray on stuff that overexposes the photos? If “cops” arn’t even catching the car not matching the vehicle description I’m sure they would overlook this. I know they sell covers that do the same thing but those are easily identified and outlawed.

    I’m pretty sure all that the fancy formula is is high gloss clear coat…seems like easy protection that i can find at the local hardware store

  • avatar
    ott

    @ Spitfire:

    Unfortunately, all that stuff was debunked on “Mythbusters”. They tested a large variety of these so-called wonders that would supposedly trick the speed cameras, As I recall, the only thing that DID beat the camera was a fire-breathing jet-propelled car at a velocity of roughly half the speed of sound.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    ott :
    September 23rd, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    @ Spitfire:

    Unfortunately, all that stuff was debunked on “Mythbusters”.

    And in “Mythbusters” fashion, did they blow up the speed camera afterwards? Now THAT I’d tune in for…

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    So, the question I want to know is: why didn’t he just go to court with his evidence?** If it was a cop involved and you could prove he made a mistake, you’d go to court to prove it.

    Except that if it was a cop he was up against, he’d probably lose unless there was a documentation error. Here it’s pretty cut-and-dried: he has a plate, a record of registration, insurance and photo evidence all on his side.

    What “Guilty until proven innocent” is how traffic law works. That’s because it’s traffic law, not criminal law. If you park your car in a handicap spot and you’re ticketed, you’re guilty. If a cop catches you speeding, you’re ticked and thusly guilty. Bylaws work the same way (eg, if you’re selling hot dogs from a cart without a license and a bylaw officer tickets you, again, you’re guilty. What’s notable about these offenses is that you’re not arrested, nor do you incur a criminal record.

    If this bothers you, then feel free to have traffic and bylaw violations considered as criminal offenses. I don’t think you’ll get much support.

    ** Many jurisdictions allow you to nominate a proxy if distance is an issue. I don’t know if this was why he didn’t go to court or not.

  • avatar
    Grib

    Fire, and lots of it.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    So is one answer to get yourself a vanity plate that no one from another state would want? Like WIMP CAR, or for the guy in the piece TX SUCKS?

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    @ psarhjinian – the for profit, outsourced, robotic camera is presumed faultless, unless the state legislature bans their use.

  • avatar
    Brendon from Canada

    @psarhjinian: why didn’t he just go to court with his evidence?**

    It costs money to do so, whether you do it yourself, or nominate a proxy. If this was an isolated incident, probably not much of an issue, but if it’s SOP for a company…

  • avatar
    Pch101

    What “Guilty until proven innocent” is how traffic law works. That’s because it’s traffic law, not criminal law.

    In the United States, this is false. There is always supposed to be a presumption of innocence. In practice, we may be treated as if we are presumed guilty, but that is not legitimate nor legal nor something that we’re supposed to encourage.

    If this bothers you, then feel free to have traffic and bylaw violations considered as criminal offenses.

    In many states, they are criminal offenses as a matter of law. This is the case in Louisiana.

    What you are saying may or may not be true in Canada, but with respect to US law, you are incorrect.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    Lokkii,
    “Yeah…. wasn’t he driving a beetle?”
    this was the single greatest posting in recent memory.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    What you are saying may or may not be true in Canada, but with respect to US law, you are incorrect.

    Fair point, I stand corrected.

    I’d also like to point out that, thusly, your system is messed up.

    I’m really quite surprised to learn that the presumption of innocence applies to traffic and bylaw infractions because, in practice, that doesn’t seem to be the case and hasn’t been for decades (centuries?). It seems like an awful lot of cognitive dissonance to, on one hand, trot out concepts like that and on another flat-out not practice them across the board.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I’m really quite surprised to learn that the presumption of innocence applies to traffic and bylaw infractions because, in practice, that doesn’t seem to be the case and hasn’t been for decades

    Unfortunately, it’s financially lucrative enough that the system can be readily abused. And it goes to why you are dead wrong with respect to your attitudes re: jurisprudence and the use of cameras.

    The only way that we’ll ever have a just and fair system is to make prosecutions a cumbersome, expensive pain in the ass for the government. If traffic enforcement is no longer profitable, then they’ll have to limit enforcement to what is sensible, instead of what is cash flow positive.

    Cameras increase the volume of citations, which creates more incentives to cheat. If traffic enforcement is profitable, then it degrades into taxation disguised as law enforcement.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    ruckover/Lokkii: “Yeah…. wasn’t he driving a beetle?”, “this was the single greatest posting in recent memory.”

    No doubt a Beetle with “active curb-feelers”…

    And btw Ruckover, yes, +1 for the nice reference to The Metamorphesis…

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    And it goes to why you are dead wrong with respect to your attitudes re: jurisprudence and the use of cameras.

    The only way that we’ll ever have a just and fair system is to make prosecutions a cumbersome, expensive pain in the ass for the government

    I’m not sure about that.

    I think all you’ll get is a significantly expanded bureaucracy to handle the caseload, and a double-helping of corrupt enforcement in the more problematic centres. That’s happening now in many areas that don’t have cameras: they’re simply adding more cops and more courts, and the result is a system that’s not just corrupt, it’s also wasteful.

    The root problem is chronic underfunding of municipal governments, combined with apathy on the part of the general populace. I can’t see fixing the latter, but the former is the result of a “get what you pay for” in terms of government. If transfer payments don’t happen and property taxes are frozen and costs are increasing, there’s not a lot of places where the difference can be made up.

    Implicit methods like these are politically expedient and popularly acceptable. Welcome to the sucky side of democracy, where the least objectionable solution wins. So what do you do? You make the system efficient and minimize the outright harm it can do by making it accountable: allow people to take the ticket to court.

    These stories of camera faults are interesting, but are they really much worse than the “normal” abuse of the system that the police and local bureaucrats are capable of inflicting?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I think all you’ll get is a significantly expanded bureaucracy to handle the caseload

    You wouldn’t, because they wouldn’t be able to pay for it. There is only so much cash to pay for them, and if the programs weren’t lucrative, they would get lower priority.

    The root problem is chronic underfunding of municipal governments

    Not really. Britain has high taxes, but still has ridiculous enforcement.

    The problem is that traffic enforcement, unlike other forms of criminal justice, is profitable. The profit motive distorts the actions of those players who pursue the profits, because it’s such easy money.

    Law enforcement should always be a cost center. Justice should be administered because it is just, not because of the coin. When prosecutions become profitable, there will be more prosecutions. The only way to fix it is to make sure that the money isn’t so easy.

  • avatar
    stuki

    psarhjinian: ” The root problem is chronic underfunding of municipal governments”

    More like chronic overzealousness on the part of the busybodies they’re comprised of, no doubt aided by the apathy on part of the general populace / electorate you speak of.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    So how do you fight an undeserved red light camera ticket?

    Create a stick on tag with the same plate as the Mayor and blast a few yellow lights for a weekend. And then do each of the city council members and work your way through the local government until it stops. They can’t all have clout and pull to get the tickets waved.

    Things are going to get testy. I saw someone get snapped making a right turn on red the other day. Ka-ching, another 90 bucks for the State.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    Robert.Walter : I wish I could take credit, but that honor goes to Lokkii

  • avatar
    JIMV

    Gamo makes a fine little air gun called the whisper…quiet, accurate, and effective over 100 yards…Replacing these toys is most assuredly more expensive than the money they get by stealing from the citizens…

  • avatar
    PJ

    This happened to me when I was stationed in Germany. The photo showed a different model car with a different license plate than mine. They’d made a simple mistake. I wrote them a letter in my broken German telling them it wasn’t my car. They wrote me back promptly with an apology. Louisiana is apparently incapable of such a simple response.

  • avatar
    Syxie

    How about this: The UK government is considering introducing legislation whereby motorists will be legally responsible for ANY accident involving a pedal-cyclist or pedestrian. That sounds like guilty unless proven innocent to me! There is no legal requirement on cyclists (and pedestrians) to hsve any kind of insurance, but either is well capable of being responsible for causing an accident with a car, another cycle, or a pedestrian. For a long time now, a motorist involved in such an accident has been responsible for paying an initial hospital A&E treatment charge for the injured cyclist/pedestrian, but this is NOT taken as an admission of guilt by the law or insurance. NOW, it seems that guilt is to become the legal RIGHT of every motorist – how stupid is this?!


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