3/15/2013Florida Moves Major Red Light Camera Reform
Florida House committee approves longer yellow times, right turn ticketing ban and due process protections for red light camera tickets.
Opponents of automated ticketing machines in Florida concede they lack the votes to get a repeal of the state's red light camera law through the legislature. As the next best option, state Representative Frank Artiles (R-Miami) moved a bill addressing some of the biggest complaints: due process concerns, the duration of yellow lights and tickets for boulevard stops. The bill sailed through the state House Economic Affairs Committee with a 12-4 vote on Thursday. Some of the changes would have a primarily symbolic impact.
"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the burden of proving guilt shall rest upon the governmental entity bringing the charge under this section," House Bill 1061 clarifies. "A person appearing in any hearing under this section may not be compelled to be a witness against himself or herself."
Others could potentially allow a legal challenge revealing every detail of the procedures and even the personnel involved in the issuance of automated tickets.
"In any hearing involving a traffic infraction detector used to enforce the traffic laws of this state, each person so charged has the right to confront the witnesses against him or her," the bill states. "Any evidence obtained from a traffic infraction detector must be authenticated in court by the person receiving or processing the evidence, any person having reviewed such evidence in order to make a decision to issue a notice of violation, and any person who issued the notice of violation or traffic citation."
The proposal essentially codifies recognition of the Supreme Court case Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, which the photo enforcement industry has feared since it was handed down in 2009 (view case). A number of California red light camera cases were won on the basis of related evidentiary challenges until the legislature re-wrote the rules of evidence to bypass the high court ruling.
The proposal would also ban ticketing for right turns on red, a practice frowned upon in existing law. The current statute only allows such tickets if the city can show a turn was not made in a "careful and prudent manner." Also, the bill would encourage the adoption of yellow signal times that would increase by a few tenths of a second.
"The minimum yellow signal display duration on traffic control signals shall be based on the posted speed limit plus 10 percent along with the standards set forth in the Florida Department of Transportation's Traffic Engineering Manual," House Bill 1061 proposes. "The minimum yellow signal display duration shall be 3 seconds for traffic control signals on streets with a posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour or less. The minimum yellow signal display duration found after the evaluation or reevaluation under this paragraph shall be raised to the nearest half second, not to exceed 6 seconds."
If the bill clears the full House and state Senate, local jurisdictions would have until December 31 to comply with the new timing. If a motorist notices he was ticketed at an intersection with a short yellow, his ticket will be automatically dismissed and the local government must pay a $500 fine to the state. All citations issued sixty days prior to the discovery must also be dismissed and refunded.
A copy of the committee substitute for House Bill 1061 is available in a 140k PDF at the source link below.