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9/4/2007
Washington: City Councilman Gets Bogus Red Light Ticket
Seattle, Washington red light camera falsely accuses councilman from a city about to install its own ticket camera system.

ATS red light camera
A Seattle, Washington red light camera accused an Aberdeen city councilman of a crime that he did not commit. Seattle demanded that Tim Alstrom pay $101 because he drove his Honda through a red light at Northeast 45th Street and Roosevelt Way Northeast on June 29 at 3:21am. The photographed car did not belong to Alstrom, and the councilman was in Aberdeen, asleep, at the time.

Alstrom had no way to contest the citation because Seattle, like nearly all cities that use photo enforcement, only allows a ticket to be dismissed if the registered owner of the vehicle nominates the actual driver who will pay the $101. In this case, Alstrom had no way to know who that might be -- all he knew was that it was not him. Since Alstrom's city intends to impose the same burden on its residents with ticket cameras of its own, the councilman had no choice but to spend four hours driving to Seattle and back and waste a day in municipal court getting the ticket killed.

In its first ten months of operation, Seattle's ticket vendor, ATS, issued $1,410,566 worth of automated citations. Seattle police told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper that this was a "rare" occurrence and asserted, despite the evidence, that every single one of those fourteen thousand tickets were closely reviewed by a police officer.

In Alstrom's case, the photograph was blurred and either a computer misread the difficult image or a technician working for ATS guessed what the license might have been. There is no penalty for guessing or falsely accusing a motorist of a crime, but there is a monetary reward when innocent motorists just pay the ticket rather than take off an entire day of work to fight one.

Source: Aberdeen leader gets faulty red-light ticket (Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA), 9/4/2007)

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