7/19/2018Red Light Camera Challenge Heads To Texas Supremes
Lawyer asks Texas Supreme Court to overturn ruling giving free pass to cities ignoring motorist protections in state red light camera law.
The nine justices of the Texas Supreme Court have the opportunity to decide whether the cities that use red light camera have to follow the law or not. Attorney Russell J. Bowman is asking the high court to overturn last month's Court of Appeals decision that gave a free pass to the city of Richardson for its failure to conduct a formal engineering study before handing Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia the right to issue $75 traffic tickets at intersections.
A three-judge appellate panel decided that Dallas County District Court Judge Dale B. Tillery was wrong to rule in Bowman's favor two years ago (view trial court opinion) because Bowman never appeared before a city-run administrative hearing regarding his ticket. Bowman never actually received the ticket that Redflex dropped in the mail. The first time the attorney had heard about the alleged violation was when he attempted to renew the registration on his 2010 Hyundai Sonata.
"The legislature granted exclusive jurisdiction to the administrative hearing officer to make an initial determination of liability, and Bowman was required to exhaust his administrative remedies on his compliance claims," Justice Craig Stoddart wrote for the appellate panel. "The alleged failure of the city to conduct a traffic engineering study and present it to a citizens advisory committee does not exempt Bowman from exhausting his administrative remedies."
The appellate court did find that Bowman was right to bring his constitutional arguments to the district court, but the appellate panel ultimately sided with the city and its for-profit camera contractor on those issues. The panel decided that the legislature had the power to convert the criminal offense of running a red light into a civil matter for the sake of convenience. By ruling that the penalty is civil, the appellate panel could conclude that the due process protections of the Texas bill of rights no longer apply.
"After considering the constitutional challenges raised by Bowman in his motion for summary judgment, we conclude Bowman failed to rebut the strong presumption that Chapter 707 and the ordinance are constitutional," Justice Stoddart wrote.
In his filing with the state Supreme Court, Bowman insisted the appellate judges made a number of fundamental errors.
"The court of appeals erred in ruling the red light camera laws do not violate due process, because as applied to vehicle owners like Bowman, no opportunity is allowed to rebut the presumption created by the red light camera laws that the owner was driving the vehicle, which is a clear violation of due process," Bowman argued.
The high court has yet to decide whether to take the case. A copy of the Court of Appeals decision is available in a 500k PDF file at the source link below.