Florida legislators haven’t exactly axed the red light camera program operating in communities across the state, but it appears they are looking to significantly sideline it.
Our West Palm Beach traffic ticket defense attorneys understand that a state House committee has given an approval stamp to a bill that would tighten the reins on how counties and cities use the devices at major intersections.
House Bill 1061 seeks to disallow the use of the cameras to cite drivers for running red lights. It would also set a minimum amount of time for yellow lights to be displayed and could give some drivers more tools to fight back against any citations they do receive.
Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, was the sponsor of the bill and said that due process rights were the paramount concern in drafting the measure. He stressed the measure wasn’t a ban on the use of devices, but it will serve to regulate them at minimum levels.
The bill received the 12-4 approval of the House of Economic Affairs Committee.
Unsurprisingly, police chief unions and the Florida League of Cities have expressed stern opposition to the measure. That makes sense considering the benefits these entities reap from having the cameras up. For law enforcement, there isn’t as much pressure on them to patrol the streets and stop red light runners and speeders. For municipalities, it’s a cash cow.
Some insisted that it was a local decision and should remain that way. However, the issue of whether to install red light cameras rarely goes to a public vote. It’s decided by city councils and county commissions – whose coffers are all significantly lined with the proceeds of these cameras.
The next step for HB 1061 is the House Appropriations Committee. A similar measure, SB 1342, has been filed by a Democratic state senator from Royal Palm Beach, though that one has yet to be heard in committee.
The fact that these measures have bipartisan support – with one sponsored by a Republican, the other by a Democrat, is promising for the future of putting the brakes on red light cameras.
At the heart of the issue is one of due process and discretion. Plus, the photographic images that are submitted don’t adequately identify the actual person behind the wheel. So the ticket ends up going to the owner of the vehicle, no matter if they were actually driving.
HB 1061, by requiring a minimum amount of yellow-light displays, would lead to a decrease in the overall number of red light tickets.
The bill would also require a number of changes to the appeals process that is used for such citations. Among those, municipalities would be responsible for authenticating the evidence presented in the images. It also underscores the fact that the burden of proof is on the government – not the driver – to prove guilt. The driver also can’t be called to be a witness against himself and each person must be afforded the right to confront any witnesses against him.
If you are charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Florida House looks to dim red-light cameras, March 14, 2013, By Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida
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