8/7/2019Federal Appeals Court Upholds Limited Due Process For Photo Tickets
Seventh Circuit US Court of Appeals once again rescues red light cameras from legal challenge over due process rights.
The relatively low cost of red light camera tickets in Illinois justifies the diminution of the constitutional right to due process for photo ticket recipients. That was the finding last week of the Seventh Circuit US Court of Appeals, which last week threw out a class action lawsuit that had been filed against the village of Lakemoor.
The suit argued that the city illegally deprived photo ticket recipients of a meaningful ability to rebut the automated charges against them by artificially limiting the defenses that can be used in an administrative hearing. The suit specifically charged Lakemoor with disallowing the defense that the printed tickets provided inadequate and inaccurate information in the tickets, making it harder for vehicle owners to defend themselves. The three-judge appellate panel disagreed, essentially arguing the due process provided by the city was good enough since the stakes are low with photo tickets.
"The requirements of due process are not rigid; rather, due process is flexible and requires only such procedural protections as the particular situation demands," Judge Daniel Anthony Manion wrote for the court. "First, the private interest at stake in this case -- a $100 fine -- is relatively small. We do not pretend a $100 fine is of no consequence. However, in the grand scheme of deprivations the government can effect, including imprisonment or the seizure of highly valuable property, a $100 fine is among the less serious sort. Accordingly, this factor suggests less process was required here."
The court added that a technical deficiency in the notice did not increase the risk of a vehicle owner being falsely charged. Limiting defenses also made it cheaper for the city to operate its administrative hearings, thus boosting the overall profitability of the red light camera program.
"We have previously held a plaintiff is not deprived of a meaningful opportunity to be heard simply because the defense he wishes to assert is not available to him at the provided hearing," Judge Manion wrote. "The plaintiffs have failed to state a claim either for violation of due process or unjust enrichment. The district court dismissed the case."
Last week's decision was consistent with circuit precedent. A decade ago, the Seventh Circuit went out of its way to defend the use of automated ticketing machines in Chicago (view ruling).
A copy of the decision is available in a 200k PDF file at the source link below.