1/27/2010Traffic Camera Company Seeks to Rewrite Arizona Law
Faced with heavy financial loses, Redflex petitions Arizona Supreme Court to eliminate personal service requirement for photo tickets.
An automated enforcement company is turning to an unelected branch of government to re-write Arizona law regarding proper service for traffic tickets. Redflex Traffic Systems of Melbourne, Australia convinced John D. Wintersteen to file a petition earlier this month that asked the Arizona Supreme Court to modify the state's rules of civil procedure to better accommodate red light cameras and speed cameras.
"Unlike the majority of other jurisdictions that have implemented photo enforcement, Arizona's rules governing service of process have not been simplified to accommodate the unique challenges presented by the widespread use of photo enforcement equipment," the petition prepared by Redflex lawyers stated. "Rule 4.1 does not currently allow defendants in photo enforcement proceedings to be validly served with a copy of the summons and pleading by first-class mail."
Under Arizona law, photo citations issued by municipalities carry license points. Although private vendors may send citations through regular mail, motorists are under no obligation to send payment unless they receive personal service. In 1992, the Arizona Court of Appeals confirmed this interpretation of state law and the city of Paradise Valley decided not to appeal to the high court (view decision).
"Regrettably, the current service of process rules have resulted in a system where those who purposefully avoid personal service are often rewarded," the Redflex filing explained. "Myriad examples abound of the efforts traffic violators have taken to thwart service under the rules. Aside from simply refusing to answer the door to a process server, individuals have created trusts and limited liability companies to register vehicles in those entities for the express and sole purpose of evading service. Moreover, people living in gated communities frequently evade service because process servers are unable to reach those homes."
Redflex and Wintersteen have not exaggerated their case. According to state documents, motorists have outright rejected automated citations paying them just 26.8 percent of the time. The resulting impact on Redflex finances has been so severe that investors threw out the company's chairman for getting involved in the freeway ticketing venture that major shareholders called an "expensive failure." Opponents of photo radar reject the idea that the state should bail a foreign company out of its difficulties.
"John Wintersteen is a front-man for Redflex," Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar representative Shawn Dow told TheNewspaper. "Why would the supreme court overturn 200 years of proper service because a private foreign company wants it? Australian companies shouldn't be re-writing U.S. law."
Although Redflex asserts that regular mail suffices for providing notice to ordinary citizens, its own contract documents forbid the use of ordinary mail when corresponding on official photo enforcement matters. Such notice may only be given by personal service, "certified mail, return receipt requested, postage and registry fees prepaid" or "a reputable overnight courier service, excluding the U.S. Postal Service" (view contract excerpt, 100k PDF).
A number of other states, including Virginia, require personal service for all traffic tickets -- including red light camera citations. Interested parties may comment on the proposed rule change at the Arizona Supreme Court Rules Forum website by May 20.
The Associated Press was first to report Wintersteen's close connection to Redflex. A copy of the petition is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.