2/5/2008Louisiana: Hidden Sign Used in Speed Camera Trap
Lawsuit filed against the Lafayette, Louisiana speed camera program that used hidden speed limit signs to trap motorists.
Motorists in Lafayette, Louisiana received automated tickets on a street that, for weeks, had a speed limit sign hidden by shrubbery. The concealed sign located at 539 Cameillia Drive was a favorite location for a mobile speed camera parked about 600 feet away. This trap caught relatives who had been driving cars belonging to Mark and Phil Abshire on October 10, but the city transportation department did not replace the sign until October 30. According to the Lafayette's photo ticketing ordinance, citations may not be issued in locations where speed signs are not visible.
"It shall be an affirmative defense to the imposition of civil liability under this article... that the properly posted speed limit sign was not in proper position and sufficiently legible to an ordinarily observant person," Ordinance number O-210-2006 stated.
Lafayette officials refused to acknowledge that any citations may have been issued in error.
"If you truly believe that there is anything illegal, I would suggest you file a lawsuit and let the courts decide," City/Parish President Joey Durel wrote yesterday in an email to the Abshires and copied to media organizations and city councilmen. "Once again, were you speeding and do you think people should be held accountable for breaking the law? Seems pretty simple."
Late last month, Barry Sevin, Jr and Edwin T Bernard did just that. In a class action complaint filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the plaintiffs argued that Lafayette's program violates both procedural due process protected under the Fourteenth Amendment and a Louisiana state law that bans the mailing of traffic citations. The case also argued that the 60,000 motorists who have been ticketed thus far deserve a full refund.
"It appears that our constitutional rights of 'Due Process' have been watered down to 'Dew Process,'" Mark Abshire said.
After replacement of the signs: