3/22/2010Georgia May Ease Motorist Photo Ticket Challenges
Georgia General Assembly considers allowing check-box challenge to red light camera tickets.
The Georgia House of Representatives as early as tomorrow is expected to take up legislation that would ease the burden on motorists wrongly accused of running a red light. The House Committee on Judiciary Non-civil on Thursday endorsed House Bill 31, which proposes a series of fundamental changes designed to force the city or county government operating the camera system to prove its case. State Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville) introduced the legislation with five of his colleagues.
"The primary issue with the way red light cameras are operated in Georgia is that it violates the 5th an 14th Amendment rights of citizens, by placing the burden of proof on the accused," Loudermilk told TheNewspaper. "When the registered owner of the vehicle was not the driver, the owner has to prove it to the government. Often local governments make it very difficult for the non-driver owners by making them appear in court or requiring they provide the name of the driver."
Loudermilk's measure addresses the problem by forcing the automated enforcement company that generates and mails the citations to include a form with check boxes that registered vehicle owners can fill out to indicate that someone else had been driving the car, the car was stolen or that the vehicle was part of a funeral procession. Because many jurisdictions force vehicle owners to take off time from work to go to court in order to assert these defenses, the bill would force them to accept a notarized copy of the mailed-in form.
"Current law states that a local government may accept a notarized statement from the registered owner that they weren't the driver of the vehicle as sufficient evidence to dismiss the citation," Loudermilk explained. "Unfortunately, the word 'may' has given too much flexibility as some governments are still making owners appear before the court or identify who was the driver."
The bill also reduces the existing penalty for lying on the form to a misdemeanor with a fine of $100 to $1000 and possible jail time. Current law considers such a false statement to be a felony.
Loudermilk previously had authored legislation that increased the yellow time at red light camera intersections by one second. As a result, the cities that obeyed the law saw violation reductions of up to 80 percent. The resulting drop in revenue generated caused a half-dozen cities to stop photo ticketing entirely. Still, Loudermilk is not satisfied.
"The complete solution to the problem is to repeal the law that allows the operation of red light cameras in Georgia," Loudermilk said. "However, we have not been able to get enough support to get a complete repeal through the legislature."
A copy of HB31 is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.