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Maryland Considers Eliminating Judges for Photo Tickets
Legislation filed in Maryland would have create pilot program where lawyers, not judges, decide guilt in photo ticketing cases.

Del. Tiffany T. Alston
Lawmakers in Maryland are upset that residents have been challenging their speed camera tickets in court. The cases, even if they go the state's way, frequently generate bad publicity. The latest solution being proposed is to eliminate the right of ticket recipients to have their day in court before an actual judge.

The state House Judiciary Committee yesterday heard testimony on House Bill 1030 which would set up a pilot system of photo enforcement justice in Prince George's County. Under the program, a lawyer would be selected to serve as "master" to decide the guilt or innocence of those accused by a red light camera or speed camera. This master would be paid directly from the revenue collected from finding ticket recipients guilty. State Delegate Tiffany T. Alston (D-Prince George's County) introduced the measure on behalf of the Prince George's County government. Another pending piece of legislation would eliminate the vestige of police officer review from the photo ticketing process and allow private contractors to issue tickets on their own authority (view bill).

Motorists unsatisfied by the master's ruling will not be allowed to appeal for a new trial before an actual district court judge. Instead, they are only allowed to use a highly technical legal procedure to object.

"In accordance with the Maryland Rules, the defendant may file written exceptions to any or all of the master's findings, conclusions, and recommendations, but must specify those items to which the defendant objects," the legislative analysis explained. "A defendant who files exceptions may have a hearing on the record before the court, which must be limited to those matters to which exceptions have been taken."

Motorists unfamiliar with court procedures would not be allowed to plead their case directly to an impartial judge. According to the Maryland's Department of Legislative Services, the lawyer and his expenses would eventually cost $286,000 in speed camera ticket revenue. The county believes it can make up this amount by an overall increase in the ticketing system's efficiency. In fiscal 2011, the county's private camera contractors, meter maids and police issued 200,771 tickets.

Alston herself has a great deal of experience with the court system. Last year she was indicted for using campaign funds to pay for her wedding. She was then separately charged with using taxpayer money to pay for staff at her private law firm.

A copy of the HB1030 is available in a 110k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File House Bill 1030 (Maryland General Assembly, 3/8/2012)

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