1/1/2010Florida: More Lawsuits Seek to End Red Light Cameras
Attorney files class action lawsuit against red light cameras in Bradenton, Florida.
A class action lawsuit was filed Monday against Bradenton, Florida and American Traffic Solutions (ATS) seeking to end the use of red light cameras in the city. Attorney Jason D. Weisser challenged the program on behalf of motorist Jamie Rosenberg and all other recipients of $125 photo tickets since automated ticketing machines were installed in March 2008.
"This matter involves the unfair and illegal practices of the defendants, city of Bradenton and American Traffic Solutions, whose acts constitute unlawful business and reprehensible public policy practices," Weisser wrote in his brief to the court. "These practices have resulted in defendants' unjust enrichment, which is due to conversion of property belonging to plaintiffs and the deprivation of the plaintiffs' state, constitutional and statutory rights."
Like a number of other, similar suits, Weisser followed the reasoning of former Attorney General Charlie Crist who ruled in 2005 that Section 316.002 of the Florida Statutes makes it illegal for a municipality "to pass or to attempt to enforce any ordinance" in conflict with the provisions of the state traffic code (view ruling). Although the state code has a provision mandating that traffic tickets be issued only by a police officer who witnessed the crime, several cities have ignored the requirement and claimed their ordinances treating red light running as a code violation were not subject to state law.
Weisser argued that this attempt at a semantic evasion violated the legal requirement for uniformity of traffic laws. Photo ticketing conflicts with state law, Weisser argued, because Bradenton's ordinance forces vehicle owners to prove themselves innocent, unlike a regular citation where the recipient is presumed innocent. Moreover, the fine schedule is different from state law and license points are not imposed. This line of reasoning is further bolstered by statements from the leading red light camera vendor which has refused to do business in Florida.
"Legal opinions indicate that automated enforcement in the state of Florida remains illegal," Redflex Traffic Systems explained in an Australian Securities Exchange filing ( view statement, page 6, 1.8mb PDF). "Some competitors have proceeded at risk with early programs."
The lawsuit calls for the refund of all photo tickets issued in the city. Similar class action suits were successful in Minnesota (decision upheld by the state supreme court) and Steubenville, Ohio.