Quis custodiet custodes ipsos?

Side-impact collisions at red lights often result in serious injuries or fatalities. To deter motorists from running red lights while avoiding the cost of stationing officers at every intersection, some locales have moved to red light cameras. Red light cameras are a common sight in Florida, particularly in high-traffic coastal regions. However, red light cameras are practically and legally problematic for the general public.

The Procedure

Florida law currently authorizes the use of red light cameras. Red light cameras in Florida take one picture of the vehicle before it enters the intersection and one picture after it enters the intersection while the traffic light is red. Photographic evidence from a red light camera presumes that the driver committed the violation. However, there are strict requirements to issue a citation.

After the camera takes both photographs, the traffic infraction enforcement officer reviews the photos and makes a determination whether to issue a Notice of Violation. Such a citation costs the alleged violator $158 and constitutes a civil infraction. Depending upon whether the traffic enforcement officer works for the city police department or the city or county itself, the municipality will receive either $45 or $75 of that revenue; the rest will go to the state. In Florida, it is unlawful to furnish any of the money from red light violations to the red light camera operator, whether through direct apportionment or commissions based upon the number of violations.

Right Hand Turns

Right hand turns are a particularly problematic area for motorists. Due to the different orientations and stopping positions of motor vehicles, right hand turns at intersections in which red light cameras are employed are a common source of false positives. To compensate for this, Florida law states  that motorists may not be issued a notice of violation or traffic citation for a failure to stop at a red light if seen on a red light camera if the motorist made the turn “in a careful and prudent manner” and if the motorist was otherwise entitled to turn right at that intersection. Due to differences as to what constitutes “careful and prudent,” motorists may end up being unlawfully cited! It’s best to ask a Florida traffic ticket lawyer for help if you’ve been ticketed this way.

The Future of Red Light Cameras in Florida

Red light cameras are plagued by controversy. Sharing fees from alleged violations captured by red light cameras is a common practice in some parts of the country. Motorists accused of red light violations often claim that yellow lights are shortened after the installation of a red light camera in the hopes of ensnaring motorists who do not reduce their speeds in the hopes of making it into the intersection in time. Additionally, the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution entitles defendants to be confronted by their accusers in a criminal proceeding; some courts find the photographic evidence and any indirect testimony from officers to be excludable hearsay.

All of this has led to an uncertain future regarding red light cameras in Florida. A bill recently passed through a House committee would modify the existing law to strengthen motorists’ rights and require yellow lights to remain illuminated for a specific duration. With a narrower margin of votes, another bill passed through a House committee that would repeal the state’s red light camera law. Red light cameras have been the subject of intense lobbying by citizens and groups aimed at protecting the rights of motorists and law enforcement groups, who claim that the cameras reduce the incidence of fatal collisions.

To encourage motorists to not exercise their rights, the initial Notice of Violation carries a $158 penalty, but raises to $256 if the motorist does not pay or notify the state who was driving the vehicle, as it becomes a citation at that point. Such schemes are highly successful at separating the innocent from their funds. Seek legal counsel immediately if you or someone you know has been falsely accused of running a red light due to a red light.

Ann Bailey loves traveling in Florida and hopes to encourage others to drive safely and without tickets. In case of a red light camera charge, a Florida traffic ticket lawyer like The Ticket Team in Orlando will fight for your rights against any unfair or unjust traffic fees.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sylvar/168362781/