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8/17/2005
Philadelphia Hides Red Light Camera Information
Pennsylvania law written to prevent any independent public disclosure of data regarding the red light camera program's effectiveness.

Philadelphia red light cameraPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania is claiming privacy is the reason it won't release information to the public that would allow an independent assessment of the city's red light camera program. Even the bare number of people that the system has photographed and tracked is off-limits in the name of privacy. No member of the public may use a court order to obtain reports or other program information that could be useful in a court challenge, even if the material contains no personal information.

According to Pennsylvania law, "...information relating to violations under this section which is kept by the city... including... written records, reports or facsimiles... and the number of violations under this section, shall be for the exclusive use of the city. The information shall not be deemed a public record.... The information shall not be discoverable by court order or otherwise."

This provision has sparked outrage among motorist advocacy groups. "How do you know if it is about safety or if it is about revenue?" Eric Skrum, spokesman for the National Motorists Association, asked.

Pennsylvania's law was carefully considered before being enacted with heavy lobbying from the camera industry resulting in donations of more than $135,000 to state and local officials.

Article Excerpt:
Full text of Pennsylvania's red light camera statute:

3116. Automated red light enforcement in first class cities.

(a) General rule.--

1. A city of the first class, upon passage of an ordinance, is authorized to enforce section 3112(a)(3)(relating to traffic-control signals) by recording violations using an automated red light enforcement system approved by the department.
2. This section shall only be applicable at intersections in the city of the first class agreed upon by the system administrator and the Secretary of Transportation who shall consider using the automated red light enforcement system at the following intersections:
1. U.S. Route 1 (Roosevelt Boulevard) at Grant Avenue, at Red Lion Road and at Cottman Street.
2. Kensington Avenue at Clearfield Street.
3. Richmond Street at Allegheny Avenue and at Castor Avenue.
4. Aramingo Avenue at York Street.
5. Thompson Street at Lehigh Avenue.
6. Broad Street at Washington Avenue.

(b) Owner liability.--For each violation pursuant to this section, the owner of the vehicle shall be liable for the penalty imposed unless the owner is convicted of the same violation under another section of this title or has a defense under subsection (f).

(c) Certificate as evidence.--A certificate, or a facsimile of a certificate, based upon inspection of photographs produced by an automated red light enforcement system and sworn to or affirmed by a police officer employed by the city of the first class shall be prima facie evidence of the facts contained in it. The city must include written documentation that the automated red light enforcement system was operating correctly at the time of the alleged violation. A photograph evidencing a violation of section 3112(a)(3) shall be admissible in any judicial or administrative proceeding to adjudicate the liability for the violation.

(d) Penalty.--

1. The penalty for a violation under subsection (a) shall be a fine of $100 unless a lesser amount is set by ordinance.
2. A fine is not authorized for a violation of this section if any of the following apply:
1. The intersection is being manually controlled.
2. The signal is in the mode described in section 3114 (relating to flashing signals).
3. A fine is not authorized during the first 120 days of operation of the automated system. During the time period under this paragraph, a warning may be sent to the violator.
4. A penalty imposed under this section shall not be deemed a criminal conviction and shall not be made part of the operating record under section 1535 (relating to schedule of convictions and points) of the individual upon whom the penalty is imposed, nor may the imposition of the penalty be subject to merit rating for insurance purposes.
5. No surcharge points may be imposed in the provision of motor vehicle insurance coverage. Fines collected under this section shall not be subject to 42 Pa.C.S. § 3571 (relating to Commonwealth portion of fines, etc.) or 3573 (relating to municipal corporation portion of fines, etc.).

(e) Limitations.--

1. No automated red light enforcement system shall be utilized in such a manner as to take a frontal view photograph of the vehicle as evidence of having committed a violation.
2. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, camera equipment deployed as part of an automated red light enforcement system as provided in this section must be incapable of automated or user-controlled remote intersection surveillance by means of recorded video images. Photographs collected as part of the automated red light enforcement system must be 35-millimeter film only, must only record traffic violations and may not be used for any other surveillance purposes. The restrictions set forth in this paragraph shall not be deemed to preclude a court of competent jurisdiction from issuing an order directing that the information be provided to law enforcement officials if the information is reasonably described and is requested solely in connection with a criminal law enforcement action.
3. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, information prepared under this section and information relating to violations under this section which is kept by the city of the first class, its authorized agents or its employees, including photographs, written records, reports or facsimiles, names, addresses and the number of violations under this section, shall be for the exclusive use of the city, its authorized agents, its employees and law enforcement officials for the purpose of discharging their duties under this section and under any ordinances and resolutions of the city. The information shall not be deemed a public record under the act of June 21, 1957 (P.L.390, No. 212), referred to as the Right-to-Know Law. The information shall not be discoverable by court order or otherwise, nor shall it be offered in evidence in any action or proceeding which is not directly related to a violation of this section or any ordinance or resolution of the city. The restrictions set forth in this paragraph shall not be deemed to preclude a court of competent jurisdiction from issuing an order directing that the information be provided to law enforcement officials if the information is reasonably described and is requested solely in connection with a criminal law enforcement action.
4. Photographic evidence obtained through the use of automated red light enforcement systems deployed as a means of promoting traffic safety in a city of the first class shall be destroyed within one year of final disposition of any recorded event. The city shall file notice with the Department of State that the records have been destroyed in accordance with this section.
5. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, registered vehicle owner information obtained as a result of the operation of an automated red light enforcement system under this section shall not be the property of the manufacturer or vendor of the automated red light enforcement system and may not be used for any purpose other than prescribed in this section.

(f) Defenses.--

1. It shall be a defense to a violation under this section that the person named in the notice of the violation was not operating the vehicle at the time of the violation. The owner may be required to submit evidence that the owner was not the driver at the time of the alleged violation. The city of the first class may not require the owner of the vehicle to disclose the identity of the operator of the vehicle at the time of the violation.
2. If an owner receives a notice of violation pursuant to this section of a time period during which the vehicle was reported to a police department of any state or municipality as having been stolen, it shall be a defense to a violation pursuant to this section that the vehicle has been reported to a police department as stolen prior to the time the violation occurred and had not been recovered prior to that time.
3. It shall be a defense to a violation under this section that the person receiving the notice of violation was not the owner of the vehicle at the time of the offense.

(g) Department approval.--No automated red light enforcement system may be used without the approval of the department, which shall have the authority to promulgate regulations for the certification and use of such systems.

(h) Duty of city.--If a city of the first class elects to implement this section, the following provisions shall apply:

1. The city may not use an automated red light enforcement system unless there is posted an appropriate sign in a conspicuous place before the area in which the automated red light enforcement device is to be used notifying the public that an automated red light enforcement device is in use immediately ahead.
2. The city shall designate or appoint the Philadelphia Parking Authority as the system administrator to supervise and coordinate the administration of notices of violation issued under this section.
3. The system administrator shall prepare a notice of violation to the registered owner of a vehicle identified in a photograph produced by an automated red light enforcement system as evidence of a violation of section 3112(a)(3). The issuance of the notice of violation must be done by a police officer employed by the police department with primary jurisdiction over the area where the violation occurred. The notice of violation shall have attached to it a copy of the recorded image showing the vehicle; the registration number and state of issuance of the vehicle registration; the date, time and place of the alleged violation; that the violation charged is under section 3112(a)(3); and instructions for return of the notice of violation. The text of the notice must be as follows:

This notice shall be returned personally, by mail or by an agent duly authorized in writing, within 30 days of issuance. A hearing may be obtained upon the written request of the registered owner.

(i) System administrator.--

1. The system administrator may hire and designate personnel as necessary or contract for services to implement this section.
2. The system administrator shall process fines under subsection (1).
3. The system administrator shall file an annual report to the chairman and the minority chairman of the Transportation Committee of the Senate and the chairman and minority chairman of the Transportation Committee of the House of Representatives. The report shall include for the prior year:
1. The number of violations and fines issued.
2. A compilation of fines paid and outstanding.
3. The amount of money paid to a vendor or manufacturer under this section.

(j) Notice to owner.--In the case of a violation involving a motor vehicle registered under the laws of this Commonwealth, the notice of violation must be mailed within 14 days of the violation, exclusive of Sundays and holidays, to the address of the registered owner as listed in the records of the department. In the case of motor vehicles registered in jurisdictions other than this Commonwealth, the notice of violation must be mailed within 21 days of the violation, exclusive of Sundays and holidays, to the address of the registered owner as listed in the records of the official in the jurisdiction having charge of the registration of the vehicle.

(k) Mailing of notice and records.--Notice of violation must be sent by first class mail. A manual or automatic record of mailing prepared by the system administrator in the ordinary course of business shall be prima facie evidence of mailing and shall be admissible in any judicial or administrative proceeding as to the facts contained in it.

(l) Payment of fine.--

1. An owner to whom a notice of violation has been issued may admit responsibility for the violation and pay the fine provided in the notice.
2. Payment must be made personally, through an authorized agent or by mailing both payment and the notice of violation to the system administrator. Payment by mail must be made only by money order, credit card or check made payable to the system administrator. The system administrator shall remit the fine to the department for deposit into the Motor License Fund. Fines deposited in the fund under this paragraph shall be used by the department as follows:
1. To reimburse the system administrator for costs associated with the implementation of this section. This subparagraph includes costs for operation and maintenance.
2. To develop, by regulation, a Transportation Enhancements Grant Program.
3. Payment of the established fine and applicable penalties shall operate as a final disposition of the case.

(m) Hearing.--

1. An owner to whom a notice of violation has been issued may, within 30 days of the mailing of the notice, request a hearing to contest the liability alleged in the notice. A hearing request must be made by appearing before the system administrator during regular office hours either personally or by an authorized agent or by mailing a request in writing.
2. Upon receipt of a hearing request, the system administrator shall in a timely manner schedule the matter before a hearing officer. The hearing officer shall be designated by the city of the first class. Written notice of the date, time and place of hearing must be sent by first class mail to the owner.
3. The hearing shall be informal; the rules of evidence shall not apply; and the decision of the hearing officer shall be final, subject to the right of the owner to appeal the decision to the traffic court.
4. If the owner requests in writing that the decision of the hearing officer be appealed to the traffic court, the system administrator shall file the notice of violation and supporting documents with the traffic court, which shall hear and decide the matter de novo.

(n) Compensation to manufacturer or vendor.--If a city of the first class has established an automated red light enforcement system deployed as a means of promoting traffic safety and the enforcement of the traffic laws of this Commonwealth or the city, the compensation paid to the manufacturer or vendor of the automated red light enforcement system may not be based upon the number of traffic citations issued or a portion or percentage of the fine generated by the citations. The compensation paid to the manufacturer or vendor of the equipment shall be based upon the value of the equipment and the services provided or rendered in support of the automated red light enforcement system.

(o) Duration of yellow light change interval.--The duration of the yellow light change interval at intersections where automated red light enforcement systems are in use shall conform to the yellow light change interval duration specified on the traffic signal permit issued by the department or the first class city.

(p) Revenue limitation.--A city of the first class may not collect an amount equal to or greater than 5% of its annual budget from the collection of revenue from the issuance and payment of violations under this section.

(q) This section shall expire December 31, 2005.
Source: Pa. seals data on red-light cameras (Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/17/2005)

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