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12/2/2008
Texas Court Busts Camera Company for Operating Without License
Texas district court judge finds red light camera company guilty of operating without a license.

Judge Craig Smith
Dallas, Texas based Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) earlier this month became the second major photo enforcement camera company to be busted for operating without a license. Proceedings are scheduled to continue today in a Dallas County courtroom as 192nd Civil District Court Judge Craig Smith decides the appropriate remedy for the situation. On November 19, Smith issued an order declaring the company in violation of a state law requiring commercial firms that provide evidence for use in court to have a license that proves their employees have passed strict criminal background checks and other requirements. Dallas attorney Lloyd Ward sued ACS after the company mailed a ticket to his home.

"Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on the issue of failure to obtain appropriate license and bond under the Texas Occupation Code Section 1702.101 et seq. is hereby granted," Judge Smith wrote.

Smith's order agreed with a May ruling by the Louisiana State Board of Private Investigator Examiners which found Australian camera operator Redflex Traffic Systems had been illegally operating an investigation service in that state. Both Louisiana and Texas impose similar restrictions on commercial services that provide evidence for use in court.

"Unless the person holds a license as an investigations company, a person may not... offer to perform the services of an investigations company," Texas Code Section 1702 states. "A person acts as an investigations company for the purposes of this chapter if the person engages in the business of obtaining or furnishing... information related to... crime or wrongs done; or... engages in the business of securing... evidence for use before a court, board, officer, or investigating committee... furnishing information includes information obtained or furnished through the review and analysis of, and the investigation into the content of, computer-based data not available to the public."

ACS is not the only company on the hot seat in Texas for operating without a license. Ward on November 24 filed a separate federal class action complaint against Redflex for willful negligence in providing unlicensed investigative services for the cities of Duncanville and Plano. To ensure all the major photo enforcement vendors are covered, Ward filed another case against Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions (ATS) for its operations in Amarillo. Neither ACS, ATS nor Redflex hold the required Class A private investigation company license, according to Texas Department of Public Safety records.

The maximum criminal penalty for operating such a service without a license is a year in jail and a $4000 fine. The same penalty applies to any individuals found guilty of hiring an unlicensed company. Ward, instead, is seeking the return of illegally collected fines. In the Redflex case, for example, that amounts to $3 million. Ultimate success would mean the full refund of every photo citation issued in Texas.

At least one photo enforcement vendor has actually used arguments similar to Ward's in court. ATS brought suit against its competitor, Redflex, after learning the company illegally operated radar units without the appropriate certifications from the Federal Communications Commission. ATS now wants a court to invalidate a statewide Arizona contract adopted while Redflex had no legal right to operate speed camera equipment in the US. Redflex even volunteered to provide refunds over the incident, but state officials turned down the offer.

A full copy of the Dallas County decision is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Ward v. Affiliated Computer Services (District Court, Dallas County, Texas, 11/19/2008)

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