6/29/2016Texas Judge Declares Red Light Camera Program Illegal
Judge rules that red light camera program in Richardson, Texas violated state law.
Cities that operate red light camera programs often refer to individuals who receive tickets as "scofflaws." The tables turned for Richardson, Texas on Monday as Dallas County District Court Judge Dale B. Tillery effectively shut down the city's renegade photo enforcement system over several flagrant violations of state law.
On November 28, 2014, Richardson's red light camera vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia, sent Russell J. Bowman a letter calling him a "scofflaw" and informing him that a hold had been placed on the registration of his 2010 Hyundai Sonata. This was the first time that Bowman had ever heard about the violation that allegedly occurred two years previously.
"That just ticked me off when I got that thing," Bowman told TheNewspaper in an interview. "I have no reason to go to Richardson."
Bowman concedes that a family member might have been behind the wheel, but he decided to fight the notice on principle. As an attorney, Bowman knew he could maintain a log of the time he spent on the phone with Redflex and Richardson dealing with the notice. In total, it took over 96 hours to generate over 700 pages of documents and legal argument that laid out the legal shortcomings of Richardson's automated ticketing endeavor. According to Bowman, Richardson's photo enforcement ordinance conflicted with the Texas state constitution's enhanced protection of due process rights.
"The red light camera laws created by Chapter 707 and the Richardson ordinances make it to where a registered owner of a vehicle like Bowman will always be liable for the $75 civil penalty, with no chance to disprove same, have the case tried by an impartial jury, or have the case be able to be appealed to an impartial appellate court, all in violation of clear and fundamental rights guaranteed by the Texas Constitution," Bowman wrote.
Bowman tried several times to get Richardson to release the traffic engineering studies that the city is required by state law to perform before installing a camera. The source of the reluctance became apparent after Judge Tillery ordered the city to hand over the documents: no studies had ever been performed, aside from the Redflex calculation of how many tickets it could issue at each location. Texas law also requires the formation of a citizen's advisory committee to review any location selected for red light camera enforcement. Again, the city did not comply.
"Our [city] council served as the citizen's committee and reviewed and approved all of the information and installations," Dave N. Carter, a former Richardson engineer testified.
After reviewing the evidence, Judge Tillery granted summary judgment for Bowman. He also ordered Richardson to pay Bowman $27,500 for the time he spent preparing the case, plus an additional $10,000 should the city attempt to appeal the case to the Texas Supreme Court. A copy of the order is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.