By on January 24, 2014

traffic-cameras

In what looks like a reasonably solid victory against the automated-traffic-ticket-profit industry, the 8th Circuit Court has deemed Cleveland, Ohio’s red-light and speed-enforcement camera system unconstitutional.

Multiple sources, including FOX8, are reporting the decision. A Columbus motorist challenged the system in 2007, noting that the system did not permit him to contest the ticket in Cleveland’s Municipal Court. Instead, he was forced to consult a “hearing officer” who appeared to be part of the for-profit system.

The court agreed, stating that

[T]he power to adjudicate civil violations of moving traffic laws lies solely in municipal court.

This doesn’t mean that the cameras are coming down — rather, a new system will have to be devised that allows victims of the automatic taxation machines to have their day in court. Most of them won’t take it. But this is still America, and things like this still matter. Now if only some court somewhere would make a ruling about the traffic camera companies’ favorite trick: cutting yellow lights to three, or even two, seconds down from the traditional five.

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57 Comments on ““…the power to adjudicate civil violations of moving traffic laws lies solely in municipal court”...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Good, let’s hope this is the beginning of the end for these video bandits. If everyone who gets one of these ransom notes in the mail challenged it in court the court system would be totally overwhelmed which eventually lead to their demise.

    • 0 avatar

      No camera has ever stopped a drunk driver, a reckless driver, an unlicensed driver, or an uninsured driver.

      All they do is send a bill.

      There is never an “arrest” of any unsafe driver, no intervention of behavior.

      Just a bill in the mail, a few weeks later…euros call this the BMW tax, because if you have money, you don’t really care.

      I have spent time in Suffolk and Nassau Counties in NY. These two counties run RLC scamera programs. They allow you to see the video of your offense. The vast majority, based on my random observations, are folks who don’t come to a full….two second…stop at a red light before a legal right turn on red.

      Most live police would never cite this one, but again, a minor, very technical violation, privatized and profiteered.

      You are all aware the purpose of RLC is to get us all used to cameras. The real money is in speed enforcement-as I was told at at Municipal Officials meeting in NY, by the person manning the Redflex exhibit. He told me, by the way, that my Village would not be good for enforcement, as we have too little traffic flow to be profitable.

      Oh, you NYC folks better pay attention. Your new Mayor, DeBlasio, has again begun the “Albany better let us get more scameras”…and he wants a 20 mph limit too. !!

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    Here’s hoping for a solid ruling sooner rather than never requiring an actual human accuser you could cross examine in court regarding the driving conditions, necessity of the action, and other safety considerations considering the specifics of the citation. I know I’m a foolish optimist.

  • avatar

    Just when I feel like I’ve lost faith in “Man vs. the State” in situations like this, I play this Youtube video to remind myself that some people do and will fight back against tyranny:

    youtube.com/watch?v=z71n_kD-LUE

    Share this with your friends.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Perhaps, there could be a non profit that collects donations to pay a bounty on those camera poles. Of course, we would need a court to declare the red light scameras a public nuisance and put a bounty on them.
    I have a neighbor who is a judge who took down a local, illegal ordinance against cell phone use while driving because the local officials did not have the authority to enact the ban. In his scathing decision, the judge said the local elected officials should learn to read and then read the state motor vehicle code before they enacted the bogus law.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Well, there’s a considerable amount of graft that goes into these things, not surprisingly. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-01-23/news/ct-redflex-red-light-bribery-20140123_1_redflex-holdings-ltd-company-policy-camera-company

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      That article pretty much sums up what’s behind this extortion…

      “A fired executive of Chicago’s beleaguered red light camera company alleges in a lawsuit that Redflex Traffic Systems doled out bribes and gifts at “dozens of municipalities” in 13 other states and says he is cooperating in an ongoing federal investigation.”

      These are the fine folks that send me ransom notes from time to time

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Not only do they work the municipalities, they work to corrupt groups like the ITE (Institute of Transportation Engineers) who work on standards development. The $cammmers work to lobby the group to make things like shorter yellow light times part of the program. That gives them a leg up on challenging tickets with the “shorter yellow” defense. Since this group of parasitic bastards does not hesitate to resort to such tactics, we as motorists should do the same. Lightweight aluminum housings strapped to the base of poles are no match for today’s generation of cordless tools…or for the quiet approach, try this for access locks: http://woodworker.com/10cc-syringe-wpr-of-tips-mssu-910-144.asp

        They play dirty, so should we. By the way, don’t be fooled by the ever increasing use of detector cameras mounted on stubby poles atop traffic lights. These are NOT $cameras for revenue; I was told those are for traffic light operation and they replace the old school method of detector loops cut into the pavement.

        • 0 avatar
          olddavid

          I’ve never believed it a good idea to announce any intent to go anarchist. However, I’m on the side of disobedience here. These are a pox on humanity and should be dealt with by any means necessary.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    With any luck, this court ruling will be rendered moot if the Ohio state senate ever gets around to voting on Ohio House bill #69 which would make most (if not all) photo cameras illegal (the Ohio House passed it by a vote of 61-32 in June of last year). So far, the Ohio Senate has gotten it changed so that the automatic photo cameras would still be legal for use, but only in school zones, and only with a cop present.

    That would still be a whole lot better than having the damn things placed in the high-traffic areas likely to generate the most ‘notices of liability’, i.e., most lucrative.

    For example, unmarked patrol cars are illegal in Ohio, but that’s only for cars owned by municipalities. Redflex/Optiflex cleverly get around that by ‘loaning’ their vehicles out.

    So, you end up with unmarked, automated, revenue generating vehicles (Hamilton, Ohio uses an off-white Ford Escape) that are moved around daily. Until recently, they used to put it at the end of a primary, divided, state four-lane highway as it entered the city limits where the speed limit drops (on a downgrade yet) from 65mph all the way to 35mph (20mph during school hours). They would put the Ford Escape out there three times a week (including Saturday afternoons). They had quite a little scam going until the big Elmwood Place ruling made national news and someone wisely thought maybe it wasn’t such a hot idea to attract attention be pulling in huge amounts of money.

    Oh, they still put it in high-traffic, non-school zones, just not quite as blatantly as before.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I’ve been told that these can just be ignored; a friend has received two, and since the Ohio BMV isn’t notified of these violations, he just keeps them in a drawer.

      (Wish I woulda known that before a morning commute a couple years ago, when a speed $camera got me as I was hurriedly going to work after having to detour off the freeway because of a jam–50 in a 35, and I paid the Redflex tax.)

      • 0 avatar
        rudiger

        This may, or may not, be the case. While it’s certainly true that the state won’t take any direct legal action, supposedly, someone (likely Redflex/Optiflex) may take action to at least get some of what they think is owed them, which would probably entail selling all of the unpaid ‘notices of liability’ (including yours) to a third party collection agency. This, in turn, holds the high probability of hurting one’s credit rating.

        I have no idea if this actually happens or not, but if it does, you’ll never know it until you apply for something that is dependent on a high enough credit rating, maybe years later. And then it’s surely going to cost a whole lot more to have rectified than having paid the Redflex fee in the first place.

        • 0 avatar
          Piston Slap Yo Mama

          A speed trailer in Gretna LA nailed me a while back. I innately knew better than to log in with the unique code the citation letter contained – why would I want to confirm receipt of their missive just to watch a horrible scofflaw endangering crippled children and arthritic old people with my insanely fast 30 in a 20? You know, on a Sunday evening nowhere close to a school or church? The next letter from a collections agency emphatically demanded that I pay for “goods or services rendered”. Try as I might, I can’t find the goods nor the services. I’ll pull a credit report soon and if I find a blemish on my otherwise untarnished credit I’m going to start BBQ’ing those trailers.

          On a related note, I’ve also noted a speed trap in Algiers Point that uses embedded coils in the road to sense speed, so don’t rely on your radar detector. I think apps like Waze are the best at ticket avoidance. Buried coils aren’t going anywhere.

  • avatar

    New York Scameras are dealt with as parking tickets. They go against the license plate, are fines only, and cannot be used for points or insurance.

    The dishonest part (other than camera enforcement in total) is that cameras are a “temporary demonstration project”, where there is supposed to be a study of accidents, revenues, etc. This “temporary demonstration project” is re authorized every time it sunsets. I think we are on round 4. Each time, NYC begs, cajoles and swaps votes upstate to get more scameras. The speed cams in school zones are what Albany (the state govt) allowed. NYC WANTED unlimited cameras on highways and all over. Luckily, the State of New York controls many NYC traffic laws, saving us from scamera hell, congestion pricing (taxation), and bridge tolls on the East River (the remaining free crossings to Manhattan).

    The new mayor, in conjunction with the Bicycle crazies, is pushing for a 20 mph limit. This will “need” more speed cameras in the face of what will be massive noncompliance.

    Oh, and that report ? Not released to anyone, not the City Council, not AAA, and not the public. It just gets kicked down the road every time our “temporary demonstration project” is re authorized.

    If it cost money, no cameras would ever go up. One red light camera out on Long Island had to be moved. Someone put it up in a Village, and as such, the Village, not the County, would get the money. The camera was moved out of the Village.

    The best defense is actually pretty easy. My $79 Garmin has “safety camera” as point of interest in the data base, and dings when you get within two blocks.

    Cameras reward poor engineering, short yellows, and low speed limits, and turn minor, technical violations of law into cash.

    See motorists dot org for more….

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Wow. 20 mph speed limit enforced by cameras. A cyclist can exceed 20 mph. What happens when a bike is next to you doing 24 mph and sets off the camera? Do you get the ticket?

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      ….If it cost money, no cameras would ever go up. One red light camera out on Long Island had to be moved. Someone put it up in a Village, and as such, the Village, not the County, would get the money. The camera was moved out of the Village….

      Would that be the Incorporated Village of East Williston? I know they said they wanted the cash if it was in their village, but suddenly that intersection was deemed “safe” and a new location was selected. As the Robot on LIS said: !!!DESTROY!!!

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      A GPS application for your smart phone likw Waze works too as users can update when the mobile cameras are moved and updated right away.

      Otherwise they are radar based and an aware motorist can spot the white Ford Escape that shows up in Parma, Ohio, on occasion or pick up the low signal strength with a radar detector like a ValentineOne that has two antennas that point to the source.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    As other jurisdictions are getting rid of these cameras, Florida cities are going nuts implementing them. They just had an independent study by the University of South Florida that called the IIHS study “a joke”.

    I am hoping that is the beginning of the end, but I doubt it… there is too much profit to be had. And Florida has an officer review the camera footage to verify the offense, and if we want to take it to court we confront that officer, not an employee of the camera company. So I guess they closed that loophole.

  • avatar
    WhiskeyRiver

    Huzzah!

    Those damnable cameras always make me look fat.

  • avatar

    Ohio has a law on the books that any intersection with photo enforcement must add a minimum of 1 extra second to the yellow signal times on the monitored approaches. But often, traffic signal work will be done and they will “accidentally” set the yellow back to the minimum for the speed limit, or shorter! And when a savvy motorist starts looking into this, it’s up to us to sue.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    Jack,

    As a fellow Ohioan (and eastsider in Cleveland), I’ve been following this closely. Apparently there are two additional cases winding their way through the court system in Ohio that challenge the cameras as well.

    I believe the tactic for these litigants is to make the traffic camera systems so cumbersome and expensive to operate that the costs outweigh the benefits, especially for smaller municipalities. This winter has seen a lot of challenges to these cameras as drivers slide through intersections, or risk losing control of their cars to stop suddenly on shortened yellows. Think the camera cares that you helped prevent an accident by sliding through that empty intersection instead of losing control of your car by breaking too hard? Try driving down Carnegie or Chester when they’re not plowed and you’ll see what I mean.

    The other good sign is that the Ohio House and Senate both have bills that would effectively ban the cameras from our fair (fare? ha!) state. IIRC, the goal is to reconcile the bills and bring them to votes at some point this year.

    These systems are a scam and claiming that they’re for safety is utter BS, especially when they purposely shorten yellow times.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      I’ve been through those Cleveland intersections as the snow has been accumulating daily this past month or so providing allot of sliding through intersections. I know a couple of people in the area and Hamilton who refuse to pay as their bill increases. Will wait in see what happens long run to these tickets.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    “But this is still America, and things like this still matter.”

    Heh… haul out the Red, White & Blue to defend your “right” to speed.

    God, I love these articles.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      My “right” not to be scammed by the people I elected to govern

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        If you don’t speed, you can’t be scammed.

        If you don’t speed, you can easily stop with only a 2 second yellow.

        If nobody speeds, you won’t be rear-ended by the baruth behind you when you slow for that yellow.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Do you always come to a complete stop before turning right on red? Cost me a $100 because my wheels didn’t come to a complete stop. The light for the oncoming traffic hadn’t even turned green yet. Justice, or splitting hair scam? Two cars behind me followed

          Is it right that if going the speed limit it would be physically impossible to clear the intersection if the light turned yellow the moment you entered? What should the driver be doing different to avoid that scenario?

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            I do now, didn’t used to, but last year a pretty young jogger nearly fed herself to my grill after emerging from some high shrubbery just as I decided I was clear to turn.

            But that’s not speeding.

            “What should the driver be doing different to avoid that scenario?”

            Consider the yellow a stop light. I always do. Let the heathens behind me rage, I’m not blowing a red light or getting t-boned if I can help it.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “Do you always come to a complete stop before turning right on red?”

            Yes. And so should you.

            It’s comments such as these that convince me that the US should do a 180, and ban the right turn on red.

            If some people are convinced that red doesn’t mean red when it involves a turn, then the law isn’t working. Red means “stop”, not “stop if I feel like it.”

          • 0 avatar
            George B

            Besides short yellow lights, the next biggest scam is to move the stop bars further away from the intersection. Most drivers turning right on red do come to a complete stop, but most cross the line before they stop. A safer intersection design would have a jog in the stop bar so the rightmost lane stops closer to the cross street than the inner lanes.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “Consider the yellow a stop light.”

            …and how does that work if you’ve already entered the intersection?

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            ” last year a pretty young jogger nearly fed herself to my grill after emerging from some high shrubbery”

            A pudgy soccer-mom with glasses, no doubt

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            You have to enter the intersection after the light has already turned red to receive a ticket.

            There should be two photos. The first shows your vehicle about to enter the intersection against a red light. The next shows the vehicle going through the intersection against the red light.

            That’s how they do it here, anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Here’s the simple answer to all of this nonsense. The purpose of fines is to deter. So, because it’s unlikely that an officer is going to catch you running a red light, or speeding, the fine for that offense is pretty high. OTOH, if the state adopts a “fish in a barrel” tactic with automated systems, the violators chances of getting caught go way up. Ergo, in order to provide the proper (and not excessive) deterrence, the fine must go down.

      The more basic problem with your argument is that, at some point, speeding becomes dangerous and running a red light is dangerous. But the first mile per hour over the limit is not dangerous; nor is rolling through a red light to make a right turn, at most intersections.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Fines aren’t just a deterrent, they’re also intended to be a punishment.

        Running a light is dangerous. The manner in which one is caught doesn’t change the severity of the violation. Too low of a fine for running a light would send the message that it isn’t a big deal.

        (I am opposed to cameras generally, but a violation isn’t made any less unsafe by capturing it on film.)

        • 0 avatar
          brenschluss

          There is no significant difference between stopping for a right-on-red, and slowing to a <1mph creep to allow for traffic to pass, especially when visibility is not a problem.

          That is not "running a red light" and should not count as such. This is why no human LEO that I know of would ticket someone for doing this, and why people are upset that a machine has removed any discretion or reasonable chance of appeal.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Absolutely!

            “people are upset that a machine has removed any discretion or reasonable chance of appeal.”

            We have the right to face our accuser in a court of law… unless it’s a camera

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You’re only helping to increase my support for banning the right turn on red.

            We have people with lousy judgment who believe that they have good judgment, violating perfectly reasonable rules for no particularly good reason.

            This is why crash rates in the US are so mediocre compared to the rest of the developed world — because our roads are full of scofflaws who think that their own schedules are more important than our lives. This is a cultural deficiency that ensures that we will never match the Germans or the rest of northern Europe in auto safety, thanks to those who don’t know better but think that they do.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            Well, you can turn right on red in Germany too, if there’s a sign saying as much.

            You’re pretending that people don’t know how to stop and look when they meet an intersection. It’s true that sometimes people screw this up; people walk into the street without looking and get hit by cars, cars blow through red lights as though they were green and accidents often result.

            Saying that no one can be trusted to behave normally at an intersection though, is as good as saying no one should be trusted to drive at all.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    I don’t understand the whole business model. This is medium tech stuff and the main technology should be off-patent. An outright sale of the equipment would at least take the profit motive out of it.

    In my area, there is a poor/working class quadrant of town. The population is too poor and transient to be a good revenue source. The newer quadrant of town is thinly populated and has a highway running through it. No money there. The rich side of town–well, somehow they prevail on the city not to place the cameras there much. So about 75% percent of the time, the cameras are situated in my mildly upper middle class side of town. Lots of revenue, few complaints at least by people who matter.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    I don’t understand the whole business model. This is medium tech stuff and the main technology should be off-patent. An outright sale of the equipment would at least take the profit motive out of it.

    In my area, there is a poor/working class quadrant of town. The population is too poor and transient to be a good revenue source. The newer quadrant of town is thinly populated and has a highway running through it. No money there. The rich side of town–well, somehow they prevail on the city not to place the cameras there much. So about 75% percent of the time, the cameras are situated in my mildly upper middle class side of town. Lots of revenue, few complaints at least by people who matter.

    In the meantime, all other traffic law enforcement other than DWI has come to a halt. We have a steady increase in pedestrian fatalities here, but there is no way to automate enforcement of bad driving around crosswalks. So not much happens.

  • avatar
    badcoffee

    As a citizen of the socialist state of Illinois, The official rule of the land is “Two Party Consent” for video. The police have, can, and will use this law to confisicate, disallow, and otherwise prevent you from filming them going about their jobs. Therefore they should need to ask my consent before filming or using a dashcam, red light scamera, or security camera. They typically post a sign stating recording is happening on premises for private security cameras.

    • 0 avatar

      Google glasses and similar devices will create an issue in those jurisdictions that prohibit the recording of public employees doing their jobs.

      Frankly, how anyone has any expectation of privacy when in public mystifies me, but then everyone thinks they are special snowflakes.

      One of the things I’ve learned writing about cars, because it involves special access to vehicles, events and people, is that human beings, once given special treatment or privileges, often come to expect those entitlements as a right. It should not surprise us when politicians, police and other public employees use what power they have to privilege themselves, they’re only human.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    But think of all the wonderful government programs that won’t be funded? What about the children?

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Elmwood Place in the Cincinnati area has been nailed big time for its speed cameras, which have been removed, but the village has been sued and may be ordered to pay back the fines as a settlement.

    This is a different case than red-light cameras, but I hope all these “revenue-enhancement” schemes are done away with for good.

    Probably won’t happen, though, as it’s always about money.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    These cameras have people so scared that it creates a more dangerous situation then it supposedly alleviates. It disrupts the flow of traffic by having people slam on their brakes at the first hint of yellow as opposed to the few who would drift through the intersection on the yellow. Since most modern traffic delay the green on the opposing side of traffic a couple of seconds there is little chance of a driver being T-boned.

    The pretense that these cameras are there for safety concerns is a sham

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “These cameras have people so scared…”

      Nah. So long as speed limits are clearly posted and yellows are at least a couple of seconds long I have no problem with any of this.

      Only got one ticket in my life, 1997 in Ft. Atkinson, ’cause I was using the onboard computer trying to find a part for a customer… 40 in a 25. My bad, got points, they’re gone now.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      This is exactly what happens. When one of the unmarked, mobile speed enforcement vehicles is spotted, everyone slams on the brakes even more so then when they see a cop.

      With a cop, there’s at least a chance of reasonableness as to writing a ticket. There’s zero tolerance with a machine, so everyone drops down to 10 mph under the posted speed limit, creating a nice traffic jam (not to mention the potential for rear-end collisions).

  • avatar
    JK43123

    There is no right to speed. There is, however, a Constitutional right to fair and equal treatment under the law. So let’s see, if my wife is driving and gets a camera ticket, it goes to me (cars are in my name) and she gets nothing on her license at all. But if she is driving and gets stopped by a cop, she gets the ticket and points on her license. How is that possible? It is unconstitutional and I am thrilled to see Ohio moving closer to eliminating these revenue generators.

    John

  • avatar
    cartunez

    Red light camera are all about the state stealing more from its citizens. Has nothing to do with safety at all.

  • avatar
    old fart

    Cleveland is supposed to post signs on the street when they are doing the automated moveable cameras but they only do it in some neighborhoods. Also the people that actually still live in Cleveland are for the most part poor , so the city should cut residents a break on the amount of the fine.


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