2/7/2011Maryland Appeals Court Forces Cops to Pay Camera Tickets
Maryland appellate court upholds speed camera tickets issued to on-duty police officers.
The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled on January 24 that officers who received speed camera tickets while driving police cars on duty must pay the $40 fine. Montgomery County Officers Dean Cates, Randy Kucsan, Bill Tran, and Dana Way protested after their department reissued citations in their names in 2008. They were found guilty in district court, but a circuit court judge dismissed the charges on the grounds that the officers were denied their due process rights. The state appealed, hoping the court would rule that police officers are not entitled to due process before liability for a speed camera ticket is transferred.
Under county policy, speed camera tickets are re-issued to the policemen, paramedics and firemen who were behind the wheel of police cars, ambulances and fire trucks if the emergency lights on the vehicles were not visibly activated in the photograph. The officers complained that their sergeant would ask them weeks or months after an alleged offense to explain why they were speeding.
"How are they going to recall that it wasn't because they were speeding to stop a kid from running in the street, chasing a ball; or a person in a wheelchair was spinning," the officers' attorney argued in court. "That's exactly our argument, that there are many, many reasons for an officer to speed that are lawful and justified.... How are they going to remember what they did yesterday? I mean, an officer's in his car for eight hours, ten hours. And if they're accelerating for a lawful purpose, and it's not on the [activity log], or they can't remember, then they get the ticket. We're saying the whole process violates their due process."
The appellate court turned to a state law that only gives emergency vehicles the ability to run red lights and speed while using a siren. It also pointed out the maximum delay in the cases at hand was one month.
"While an inordinate delay might deprive an officer of due process, the officers have failed to show any significant delay in receiving notice," Judge Sally D. Adkins wrote for the court. "The officers received notice of the charges at least as early as when they were interviewed by the department, well before the citations were reissued in their names... As the county argued at trial, the officers were no worse off than a regular citizen who could be issued a citation months after the violation date."
Because the officers were not deprived of their due process rights more than anyone else, the full court upheld Montgomery County's procedure for assigning tickets to police officers and vacated the circuit court decision.
"Due process does not require strict adherence to a statute by an administrative agency where such adherence would provide no additional guarantees of fairness, notice, or an opportunity to be heard," Adkins wrote.
A copy of the decision is available in a 60k PDF file at the source link below.