10/16/2014Florida Appeals Court Strikes Down Red Light Cameras
Second highest court in Florida reverses its earlier support for red light cameras, refuses vendor-issued citation procedure.
In a dramatic reversal of a decision handed down six months ago, the Florida Court of Appeal decided Wednesday that the way red light cameras are operated throughout the state is unlawful. A three-judge panel unanimously set aside its April 23 opinion, replacing it with a decision that represents bad news for automated ticketing vendors and cities that rely upon them.
"For the reasons set forth herein, we... find that the city is not authorized to delegate police power by entering into a contract that allows a private vendor to screen data and decide whether a violation has occurred before sending that data to a traffic infraction enforcement officer (TIEO) to use as the basis for authorizing a citation," Judge Mark W. Klingensmith wrote in the new decision. "Such outsourcing to a third-party for-profit vendor of a city's statutorily mandated obligation to issue uniform traffic citations for red light camera violations is contrary to the plain wording of the Florida statutes."
Motorist Eric Arem had challenged the $158 ticket that American Traffic Solutions (ATS) mailed to him on behalf of the city of Hollywood. Arem argued that the only role of a Hollywood police officer in the way the system works is to press a button to convict based on what ATS sends over.
This is precisely as cities intend the system to work. For-profit photo enforcement vendors officer what they call "turn-key service" in which the camera company handles absolutely every aspect of the program, except for pushing the "convict" button.
"For all practical purposes, it is the vendor that decides which cases the TIEO gets to review; it is the vendor who initially determines who is subject to prosecution for a red light violation; it is the vendor that obtains the information necessary for the completion of the citation; it is the vendor that creates the actual citation; it is the vendor that issues the citation to the registered owner of the vehicle; and, it is the vendor that eventually transmits the traffic citation data to the court," Judge Klingensmith wrote. "Although the city may have some input into who eventually is prosecuted, that decision is wholly dependent upon the vendor's initial determination."
The judges found upon reconsideration that there is no authority in Florida law for a city to deputize a vendor to perform these law enforcement functions. The court found that the appropriate remedy was to dismiss the ticket issued to Arem, which raises the potential that current ticket recipients could have their cases tossed out and past recipients could use another class action lawsuit to seek refunds.
A copy of the new decision is available in a 150k PDF file at the source link below.