By on June 8, 2009

Arrowhead Justice Court Judge John C. Keegan last week dismissed the photo radar-based reckless driving charges filed against the Executive Director of the Arizona Republican Party. On May 6, officers from the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS), which is headed by Democrat Roger Vanderpool, showed up at the state GOP headquarters with a speed camera ticket in hand to arrest Brett Mecum, 30. Judge Keegan took the case as an opportunity to reinforce his previous judgment that the Arizona law governing freeway speed cameras is unconstitutional.

“Speed cameras along Arizona’s freeways are an aspect of everyday life for a vast majority of Arizonans,” Keegan wrote. “It is difficult to fathom a trip anywhere within the Phoenix metropolitan area without the omnipresence of the camera. If the statute authorizing the cameras is unconstitutional, the Arizona legislature, by enacting this statute, violates the equal protection rights of thousands of Arizonans every day.”

Keegan argued that it was unlikely that an ordinary motorist could mount a proper legal challenge to the program given that legal fees would amount to thousands of dollars while the maximum fine set by law for a freeway ticket is just $181.50. The state’s freeway program does not issue points against drivers’ licenses.

“Since citizens have no monetary or licensure incentive to enforce their constitutional right to equal protection, the court has left it upon itself to ensure that these individual rights are protected,” Keegan wrote.

DPS presented Keegan with a far more serious case. On April 10, a speed camera operated by Australia’s Redflex Traffic Systems photographed Mecum’s blue 2008 Ford Shelby GT Mustang on a deserted stretch of Loop 101 at 12:38 a.m. The camera claimed the Ford had been traveling at 109 MPH.

Maricopa County Prosecutor Andrew Thomas flip-flopped from his previously announced policy of not putting people in jail based solely on accusation of a machine that has proved wrong on several occasions. As a result, Mecum faced the prospect of four months in jail, a ninety-day license suspension and a $500 fine.

Mecum argued that DPS had a political motivation in pursuing the charges. Keegan agreed there was something unusual about Mecum’s treatment.

“The court notes that other defendants stopped for similar offenses and speed by an officer on patrol are often cited and released on the side of the highway,” Keegan wrote. “This happens in spite of the immediate proximity in time of the offense and access to the means of the alleged offense, i.e., the vehicle. In this case, apparently, a decision was made to arrest the defendant at his place of employment nearly a month after the incident. This action seems curious for two reasons. The first is the timing of the arrest considering the lack of immediate threat to public safety.”

Keegan’s second point was that the class two misdemeanor punishments that apply to reckless driving and criminal speeding cases could not be imposed based on the evidence provided by a state-issued photo radar ticket. In 2008, the legislature specifically rewrote the statute to create “civil” freeway citations that do not carry license points (view law).

“Given that immediate public safety was not an issue, and the maximum penalty is only a nominal fine, the defendant’s arrest at his place of employment may have been neither appropriate nor proportional,” Keegan wrote. “That, however, does not mean that the state’s action is prohibitively selective or political.”

Keegan dismissed the criminal speeding and reckless driving charges with prejudice. Mecum, however, did not receive any special favor. Keegan has overturned more than one thousand photo radar tickets issued to people appearing in his courtroom.

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19 Comments on “Arizona Judge Throws Out Political Arrest Based on Photo Ticket...”

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    The camera claimed the Ford had been traveling at 109 MPH.

    The camera speaks! That’s scary.

    Kudos to Judge Keegan for persevering with common sense.

  • avatar

    If the guy really was driving 109 mph, he’s a chowderhead. On the other hand …

    From the article:
    “the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) which has used high-profile photo ticket arrests as a public relations tool. In August, for example, a young motorist was led in handcuffs out of the Sky Harbor International Airport with a DPS camera recording the event for distribution to local media. Last week, DPS issued another press release citing similar arrests as a justification for the automated ticketing program.

    “Ongoing apprehensions of major violators are further evidence enforcement works,” the press release stated. “DPS recently arrested three suspects for reckless driving and criminal speeding. Video and photos of the suspects are available on request.”

    Next we’ll learn Arizona authorities are looking favorably at reviving “public humiliation” punishments such as placing suspects [i.e., people who haven’t actually been convicted] in stocks on the town square, where children can throw rotten fruit at the hapless suspects. Authorities defend the punishment-before-conviction tactic on the grounds that even if a suspect is eventually found not guilty, the suspect should be punished anyway for committing the Thoughtcrime of insufficient respect for the citizenry’s overlords.

  • avatar

    Deserted section of road at 12:38 AM in a Mustang Shelby GT. Far from foolish it seems almost required.

    Seriously, this is so obviously a political move it’s shameless. Keegan should run for higher office, he is needed badly in some places.

    Note the lack of points and the structure of the fine is designed to extract a check from the motorist without any challenges. Someone might win in court and have the cameras removed. Better to fleece 181 dollars rather than go for hundreds or thousands. And the lack of points placates the subject, er citizen, so there is no fight.

  • avatar

    Anybody who doesn’t think the arrest was politically motivated really needs to remove the blinders and open their eyes to the world around them.

    GS650G :
    June 8th, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Deserted section of road at 12:38 AM in a Mustang Shelby GT. Far from foolish it seems almost required.

    At least once, anyway.

  • avatar

    What do you expect from the land of Joe Arpaio?

  • avatar

    There are two classes of Americans, regular folks who pay taxes and vote, and those who work for the government and have their hand in the regular folks’ pockets.

  • avatar

    Pure political grandstanding. I hope Vanderpool, if he is really the person who instigated the arrest, is voted out.

  • avatar

    If this story is accurate, then it is just one more way of seeing how this once-great nation is rapidly deteriorating into a third world tinpot dictatorship.

    Politically based arrests and harassment? That used to be SOOOOO South America. Now it is obviously Untied Status of Amerika, too.

    The fourth reich won’t last any longer than did the third. Probably less long.

  • avatar

    People doing 109 mph are usually “just cited and released”? This guy is lucky it wasn’t a cop who pulled him over, because if he had alcohol in his system (which at midnight is highly likely), not only would he have gone to the pokey, he almost certainly would have lost his license and faced DWI charges.

  • avatar

    Politically based arrests and harassment?

    The judge specifically tossed out that argument being made by the plaintiff. You should read the judge’s opinion.

    Good thinking long126mike.

    Throw him in jail since it was late at night so he must have been drunk.

    Stalin would be proud.

    Then I guess that the judge must be some sort of pinko commie, because that’s effectively what he’s saying.

    The judge’s issue with camera tickets is that the penalties are **different** from they are for alleged violators who are stopped by a police officer.

    He is saying that the penalties should be the same, based upon the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. He’s not even arguing against cameras per se, so much as is he is challenging the reduced penalties carried by photo tickets.

  • avatar

    Throw him in jail since it was late at night so he must have been drunk. Stalin would be proud.

    The mark of a talented debater is the ability to construct absurd strawmen and red-bait in as few words as possible. Congratulations on your achievement.

  • avatar

    longmike126: People doing 109 mph are usually “just cited and released”?

    Last summer, we visited the Southwest. While driving through Arizona, we were traveling at 85 mph on an interstate – during the day – and people were still passing us. In F-150s and minivans, I might add, not Ferraris or Shelby Mustangs.

    On a rural Arizona interstate, without much surrounding traffic, it is not unreasonable to believe that someone driving 109 mph could be cited and released.

  • avatar

    What do you expect from the land of Joe Arpaio?

    Completely different agency.

    DPS leadership is democRat, that’s why they let illegal alien criminals slide driving without insurance and for the most part enforce these laws against white citizens for revenue purposes.

  • avatar

    The judge is saying the guy was drunk so therefore he will let him go free?

    Forgive me, but I was trying the small amount of merit of your obviously hyperbole-riddled metaphor in order to prove a point.

    In Arizona, a speeding violation in excess of 85 mph is a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine and 30 days in jail. (A regular speeding violation is considered criminal, not civil.)

    Had Mr. Becum been popped by a cop, he could have been arrested because of his special violation. He could do time for it and pay a higher fine.

    The only reason that he got a lesser penalty is because it was a camera violation. The judge clearly thinks that the difference in penalties is unconstitutional, and that both sorts of offenders should receive equal punishment.

    The judge isn’t saying that the cameras are unconstitutional. Personally, I wish that he would, but I’m not inclined to ignore facts when they are inconvenient.

  • avatar

    I wish we here in Doity Joisey had just a couple of judges like that. Unfortunately, all we get are failed lawyers.
    Keep up the good work Judge.

  • avatar

    Stalin would be proud of you.

    I’m not sure that even a simple majority of the posters here actually know who Stalin was and what he’s done.

    The Constitution could be burned tomorrow, in the name of the greater good, and the country would be cheering all along.

  • avatar

    Stalin would be proud of you.

    What, Stalin? What happen to Hitler? Do you flip a coin? Or does the conservative-handbook have some kind of flowchart decider?

    It really takes a special kind of not thinking to do this:

    A: He might’ve even be intoxicated in which case he would be in big trouble if a cop stopped him.

    B: You’re just like Stalin! Or Hitler.

  • avatar

    The “special kind of thinking” is that, because he was driving after midnight, it was “highly likely” that he had alcohol in his system. What nonsense…

  • avatar

    Not just any nonsense, STALIN (or HITLER) nonsense.

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