8/1/2008Arizona Continues Photo Ticket Show Arrests
Arizona state police stage what could be the last publicity generating arrest based solely on a speed camera photo.
Arizona state police on Wednesday performed what could be their last arrest staged to generate publicity for the department's lucrative photo enforcement program. On Wednesday, officers waited at Sky Harbor International Airport armed with professional quality video and still cameras to handcuff a twenty-one-year-old motorist as she returned from the International Softball Challenge in Sydney, Australia.
Authorities concieved the high-profile arrest after a speed camera photographed a yellow 2001 Lexus IS300 on a deserted stretch of the Loop 101 freeway on May 28 at 1:51am. (view photo). The camera claimed the vehicle owned by Mesa resident Britnee Bristow was traveling at 103 MPH in a 65 zone, allowing police to file "reckless driving" charges against the young vehicle owner.
Bristow returned Wednesday after spending several days playing the position of catcher on the US amateur softball team in an exhibition match against rival Australia. This had been Bristow's first overseas trip that she paid for by raising $4500 in donations. When police called to ask her to forego the trip and spend time in jail instead, she refused to allow police to "ruin her dream." This infuriated officers who issued a statement condemning Bristow before she has been proved guilty of any crime.
"She demonstrated no regard for the safety of others with her reckless, criminal speeding which was captured by our stationary photo enforcement cameras," Jeffrey Jacobs of the Arizona Department of Public Safety's Photo Enforcement Unit said in a statement. "She knew what she did but refused to take responsibility for her actions. The law is very clear when it comes to criminal speeding and reckless driving."
That law, in effect on May 28, was changed in June, inhibiting the ability of police to jail motorists over photographs. In a move designed to boost the number of paid citations and limit legal challenges, the legislature stated that all tickets issued under the new statewide speed camera program are civil violations for which the statutory punishment is $165 with no license points (view law). Locally operated cameras may still issue criminal tickets.
Although the Department of Public Safety in its statement declared Bristow guilty before trial, Arizona photo enforcement systems have had a history of generating inaccurate citations. In January, 589 tickets were canceled after a pavement sensor malfunction generated erroneous speed readings. In July 2007, radar-based warning signs in Chandler displayed wildly inaccurate speed readings to passing motorists. In Scottsdale, a Redflex sensor accused a man of driving 147 MPH in a rented Hyundai Sonata in May 2006, even though the vehicle had a measured top speed of just 137 MPH. Around the same time, another black man had been given a white man's speeding ticket. In 2005, the city was forced to refund a total of 1964 tickets after a mobile speed camera van operator for Redflex made a change in the software that removed date, time and speed information from every alleged violation.