By on September 6, 2009

Doubts over the accuracy of the speed camera equipment led to the dismissal of a Washington, DC photo radar ticket last month. On May 7, a 34-year-old engineer from Alexandria, Virginia had been driving on Interstate 295/395 near 9th Street on a sunny morning when a mobile speed camera operated by American Traffic Solutions snapped a photo of the engineer’s car. The camera claimed that the Audi was traveling at 51 MPH, 11 MPH over the District’s 40 MPH interstate speed limit.

The motorist, who requested anonymity, decided to fight the citation out of “spite.” He arrived at the District’s Department of Motor Vehicles on August 17 unprepared with an argument that would beat the ticket. He fully expected to lose, but thought it was right to “cost the city more money” because he saw the photo radar program as little more than an illegitimate money grab. The motorist was surprised, however, when Adjudicator Stephen Reichert took one look at the ticket photo and noted that a second vehicle had been within the radar’s field of view. Radar guidelines suggest this situation could cause a spurious radar reading, especially since the District’s contractor provided no video or other secondary verification of speed. View full-size photo.

“Inasmuch as the government-submitted photograph shows multiple vehicles traveling through the radar zone in a receding direction, the government has failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that respondent’s vehicle was identified as the vehicle speeding,” Reichert wrote. “Thus the ticket is dismissed.”

The motorist was glad he did not need to give the speech against the system that he had planned to give.

“I said ‘no’ when asked if I had anything else to add, and out I went with my cash remaining in my pocket,” the motorist told TheNewspaper. “Cost to me: $3.30 in Metro fares. Win.”

As of last month, the District’s private photo enforcement contractors had mailed a total of 4,019,023 tickets worth a total of $305 million. That is equivalent to one ticket not just for every resident of Washington, DC, but for every single resident of the District plus surrounding Virginia and Maryland suburbs.

A copy of the adjudicator’s decision is available in a 250k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: PDF File Department of Motor Vehicles Hearing Record (Government of the District of Columbia, 8/17/2009)

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25 Comments on “DC: Camera Ticket Overturned Over Accuracy Doubts...”


  • avatar
    twotone

    If everyone who received a photo radar ticket took the same approach they would be quickly shut down.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    This is the mentality people need to take with all forms of traffic enforcement.

    The more people who fight it, the less you see BS tickets.

  • avatar
    akitadog

    I pass this spot almost EVERY WEEKDAY on the way home from work. When the program first started, I was driving by one weekend and noticed the unmarked Crown Vic sitting on the side of the road. I “knew” it was taking speed photos, so I slowed down to under 50. Yet the camera went off anyway. I thought, “Man, they aren’t even giving 10 mph leeway. There goes 100 bucks.”

    10 days later, I got not a ticket, but a warning in the mail, I guess since the program was just being rolled out. However, the warning said I was doing 54 MPH! I KNOW that I was under 50 by the time I got to the cop car.

    And that’s a funny thing, too. Most of the time, it’s a DCPD car with a uniformed officer inside that sits in that spot, or some Chevy Uplander with DC gov plates. So is ATS actually working this spot? Doesn’t look like it to me.

    And, yes, the engineer is right. It’s purely a money grab. There happens to sit another car on the other side of the street, below the underpass in the photo, doing the same thing.

    What pisses me off, and tells me that it’s all about money and not safety, is that the cars sit in their respective spots when traffic is light on that side, such as outbound in the morning (as in the photo) when traffic is traveling inbound, and vice-versa in the evening. When traffic is light, it’s safer to travel at higher speeds, so the cop car just sits there and the camera clicks away (while making a “cha-ching” sound, I’m sure), collecting money for the state.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    Not in D.C., however I was pulled over recently in 65 mph zone and the state trooper told me she clocked me at 83 mph. I was just coming around a turn with a few other cars around me, and to this day I can’t figure out how she says I was going that fast when I take that same turn every weekday and it’s almost impossible, not to mention in a Civic that just doesn’t drive 80 or over well at all. I’ll also mention that when I spotted the trooper just after the turn I was doing 73 mph. However we briefly talked Glocks (I have a handgun permit) and she just gave me a warning.

    I didn’t question her at the time, as I figured why bother as she’d just think I was lying to her (like most people probably do). I just said I wasn’t paying attention. But still, maybe I was over 73, but no way 83!

    Whatever do you do in a situation like that?

    I also read in a local paper about a judge that doubles the ticket fines (from about $150 to $300) when someone shows up to court to fight the ticket as he stated that he takes the word of the cop over whatever the citizen has to say.

  • avatar
    CyCarConsulting

    When cities are as desperate for revenue as they all are now, expect more of these types of practices. For the few that fight, a mere cost of doing business.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    And here’s another cash grab: video-enforced tollbooths.

    Here in Denver, we have a toll-road ring highway, E-470. And my case is not unique.

    I once used the road to go to the airport, and paid my toll at an automated station. A few weeks later, I got a bill for $90, along with a picture of my car, for supposedly not paying the toll.

    I called the toll road agency and explained to them that I had paid the toll and that their information was in error. Their response? Pay the $90 or we’ll suspend your license.

    The response from the local sheriff’s department and the state of Colorado? We don’t get involved on E-470 tolls. You can’t even take the matter to court. Funny, they sure get involved in speed enforcement on that road, but I digress.

    Bottom line: I had to pay a $90 fine over a $.75 toll.

    And now for the latest: the owner of the toll road has taken out the manned toll booths, and will use video enforcement to mail toll bills to anyone without a transponder. Ka-ching!

  • avatar
    KGrGunMan

    Is there any other event in life where if you pay $3.30 and spend a couple hours of your time and count that as a win? still seems like a loss to me…

  • avatar
    RichardD

    akitadog

    DC cops are paid $55/hour to sit and do nothing in the camera car. They drive to the spot, push the on button, and take a nap. Literally.

    The system is 100% automated by ATS.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    The State of Washington is currently going KA CHING!! over 20mph photo-enforced school zones.

    Schools that have never had a traffic incident in over 75 years have now been drafted into producing revenue for the state.

    As expected, not a dime of it goes back to the school or the kids.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Along with being expected to embrace diversity (with no definition of what that truly is) and believe that multi-culturalism can only be a wonderful positive for you and the USA we are also indoctrinated to OBEY “authority.”

    Whatever the “authority” and its origins to be a good citizen you must OBEY!!!

    You DO support the troops, don’t you?

    And it IS for the GOOD of the CHILDREN!!!!!!!!!!!

    I find the whole shebang easier to understand when thinking within the parameters of class warfare.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I just got one for 5 over. Complete bullshit. I’m going to fight this one, cop didn’t even consider the 3 other cars all around me and how that could affect the radar result. But 5 over and 70 bucks?

    Just raise the gas tax and be done with it. Take the money and buy votes that way.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    obbop :
    September 6th, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Along with being expected to embrace diversity (with no definition of what that truly is) and believe that multi-culturalism can only be a wonderful positive for you and the USA we are also indoctrinated to OBEY “authority.”

    Maybe I’m slow, but WTF does cultural diversity have to do with speeding tickets?

  • avatar
    Hellcakes

    Just raise the gas tax and be done with it.

    Ha ha, are you kidding? Raising the gas tax is political suicide, especially these days. Remember that both of the previous two presidents opened the strategic oil reserve to take pressure off oil prices. Even national security takes a backseat to the price at the pump.

    Ticketing lets them extract dough from the unsympathetic ‘speeders’ with the added bonus that this kind of roundabout tax never gets paid by state VIPs or the bureaucrats responsible for enforcing it.

  • avatar

    I have an identical case (two vehicles in the photo). I am asking for mail adjudication “mail hearing”. Will post result later. Here’s my picture
    http://members.cox.net/dbabayan/0000000-ticket.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      juliev

      Dave, thanks for your post, my daughter just got one of these tickets. I was trying to look at your picture, but when I click on it, I’m unable, maybe it’s too old. There is a car ahead of her in her photo. do you think we can get this dismissed? thank you, Julie

  • avatar

    And this is at the same spot too, 295/395 near 9th.

  • avatar
    stellerman

    Dave fromVA, what happend when you requested mail adjunction? I have an almost identical picture.

  • avatar

    Hi Stellerman. I submitted all papers on or around Nov 5-6 or so and received an aknowledgement (Mid November)  saying that documents are received and it may take up to 6 months (yes, months not weeks) for adjudicators decision. Meanwhile the ticket will remain suspended.  So… just waiting.  Didn’t want to ask for an actual hearing, didn’t want to spend half of my day on this $50.00 ticket…

  • avatar

    June 2010
    Received a dismissal letter :)

    • 0 avatar
      hinokaoi

      Dave, like others, there is another vehicle in the photo enforcement ticket I rec’d.  Before I use your approach, I’m wondering: Did your ticket say (on the back where it describes how “this type of speed enforcement works”) that the camera “will not take a photograph if…there is more than one vehicle in the radar beam.”?  Mine does issues 10/14.  If yours didn’t, I would wonder whether changes had been made to the radar/cameras to end use of this defense.  Thanks.
       
      Anyone else with a comment that might help likewise welcome!

      • 0 avatar
        juliev

        My daughter just got the same ticket, it also has another car in the picture, even though on the back it it says the camera wouldn’t take a picture with another car. Did you get your ticket dismissed? thank you, julie

  • avatar
    cackalacka

    Nice, well done, Dave.
     
    After 20 years of speeding ticket-less driving, DC has sent me an 11 over in a 40. Photo is eerily similar to yours. In the spirit of the 6th amendment, I am going to attempt adjudication, as well.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      Update:

      Got a response back from the adjudicator. Beat it.

      Strange how nearly identical my photo ticket was to the original. Change the day to night and make the car on the left an SUV, otherwise, the same. May even be the same road, for that matter…

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