By on November 28, 2011

Maryland state law prohibits municipalities from paying contractors to operate speed camera and red light cameras on a per-ticket basis. In an October 27 ruling, the Court of Special Appeals found that localities are free to ignore this legal requirement.

A group of motorists in 2008 filed a class action lawsuit against Montgomery County, the cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg, and Chevy Chase Village because each paid Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) $16.25 for each ticket the company issued, in violation of the statute.

“If a contractor operates a speed monitoring system on behalf of Montgomery County, the contractor’s fee may not be contingent on the number of citations issued or paid,” state code section 21-809 states.

According to the county’s original contract, ACS was to “install and support all traffic camera equipment” and “supply an automated violation processing services solution that is capable of supporting high volume program operations.” Montgomery County was first given authorization to use cameras over the veto of then-Governor Robert L. Ehrlich (R) in 2006 and the grant was later expanded to all other jurisdictions in 2009. The motorists argued they have the right as private citizens to pursue a claim against the state government to remedy an illegal act. The General Assembly took no action to bar such suits. The appellate court insisted the legislature only allows fighting a ticket in a lower court and that broader challenges taken to a circuit court are not allowed.

“Although appellants argue that it is impractical to bring an action challenging the propriety of a contingency fee in the district court, we see no other way to interpret the plain language of this provision — appellants are permitted to raise any defense in the district court regarding the legality of the citation,” Shirley M. Watts wrote. “Appellants, therefore, had the opportunity — which they failed to exercise –to challenge in the district court the speed citations they received, presenting the argument that the contracts between appellees and ACS were unlawful.”

Prince George’s County district court judges have already stated that they will not consider evidence that a driver is innocent of a speed camera accusation at trial. On September 4, 2008, Montgomery County changed the wording of its contract to state: “Contractor provides vehicles and equipment, but does not operate the speed monitoring system.” The appellate court accepted this as sufficient, even though there is no difference in the way the system is operated.

“We are aware of appellants’ insistence that the amendments to the contracts between appellees and ACS do not resolve the contention that ACS is an operator of the speed cameras,” Watts wrote. “We discern, however, no basis to look beyond the plain, unambiguous language of the contracts, which specifically provides that appellees and not ACS are operators of the speed cameras in Montgomery County.”

A copy of the decision is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Baker v. Montgomery County (Court of Appeals, State of Maryland, 10/27/2011)


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19 Comments on “Maryland Court: No Redress When City Violates Speed Camera Law...”

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Rules are only for the proletariot.

    Until Revolution II.

  • avatar

    Occupy automated camera enforcement?

  • avatar

    Get out your paint ball guns (or raw eggs).

    • 0 avatar

      I think I recall a news article from Ireland involving a speed camera, a used tire, and about a quart of “petrol”.

      Now, I’m not advocating anything, of course.

  • avatar

    ACS is a sleazy company.

    • 0 avatar

      They are only as sleazy as the state/local governments allow them to be. This is just more proof of how big a cash grab these cameras are. You’ve got to love it when governments are so bold that they don’t even TRY to hide their corruption. Maryland seems to be embellishing it.

      • 0 avatar

        They are also only as sleazy as the voters allow them to be. As noted in the article, Ehrlich was against speed cameras. The (heavily Democratic) Legislature was and is for them. Now-Gov. O’Malley specifically pledged to allow speed cameras if elected, and he both won election over Ehrlich and won a rematch.

        The people of Maryland, damn their eyes, have repeatedly voted in favor of speed cameras.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, it’s true, a lot of the people I talked to in the area are oddly in favor of them. Part of the problem is that everyone drives like an idiot in this state, and everybody knows this, so people get the attitude of “well if it makes the highways around here less like the Thunderdome I guess I’m in favor” and partly it seems like a way of raising money that isn’t an overt tax.

        In my experience the ones in the Baltimore area aren’t that bad (I believe they have a 12 MPH margin and are usually only used in work zones) but the ones in the DC suburbs are very strict.

        Personally, I’d like to replace these with some kind of ticketing system for people who change lanes without using their damn turn signals; at the very least, we’d solve the state’s budget crisis in a week.

      • 0 avatar

        “This is just more proof of how big a cash grab these cameras are.”

        Damn straight! Martin O’Malley never saw a tax or a fee that he didn’t adore. He’s the worst of the worst at shaking people down. He’s responsible for the largest single increase in state income tax (last term in office), doubled the automobile registration fee, increased in the long prevelant 5% sales tax to 6%, he is proposing a big increase in the state gasoline tax and is trying to get the legislature to tax out of state internet purchases. I guess the concept of living within your means is irrelevant when all you have to do is live within someone else’s means.

        Secondarily, Maryland is is probably the best (or worst depending on your perspective) example of an over regulated police state. The “Free State”? What a load…….

      • 0 avatar

        I have no problem with voters supporting cameras. (I do not share the childish vitriol about them as most do on this site.) However, I can’t support laws that deny basic protections to citizens. At least here in TX, the law for RLCs required multiple layers of checks and although difficult, it is possible to correct erroneous citations.

      • 0 avatar

        Red Light Advocate,
        It is not childish vitriol but a fact based scientific expose of the dangerous and devious shortening of yellow light duration.

        Add to that the suppression of ballot initiatives, lack of redress and outright illegal maneuvers by local govts.

  • avatar

    can’t fight city hall – but what happened to the 6th amendment right to confront your accuser?

  • avatar

    I’m thinking that this is a good state to have a ladder, cans of paint or better yet, High Powered rifles and just shoot the damn things.

    From the way I’m reading this, the cameras are being operated illegally and yet the motorists are still paying the price?

    Did I miss something?

    These cameras need to go the way of the Dodo bird. the sooner the better.

    • 0 avatar

      meh, no need for a rifle. a paintball gun and some frozen paintballs are powerful enough to leave nasty welts so they should be good enough to take out a few cameras.

      • 0 avatar

        too easy to clean.

        Much safer for sure, but when/if I get charged some fine by a computer that is itself violating the law. Yeah I’ve no issue with shooting the [email protected] thing.

      • 0 avatar

        Hence the frozen paintballs. They’re banned from most paintball parks because they can easily break fingers and such, so it shouldn’t be that hard to break a lens/glass protector. But obviously you’d have to hit it straight on.

        But now that I think about it, a much better/easier/stealthier way would to get an array of lasers and overload the light sensor in the camera. It would have to be a lot or powerful lasers to permanent damage though.

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