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Florida Appeals Court Backs Ft Lauderdale Red Light Camera
Fort Lauderdale, Florida red light camera challenged rejected by state appeals court.

Judge Carole Y. Taylor
Red light cameras are under increasing legal scrutiny in Florida. The state's highest court in November heard oral arguments in a case that could force the refund of every ticket issued prior to July 2010. A Florida state House committee in January recommended passage of legislation that would zero out the ability of local jurisdictions to profit from the use of automated ticketing machines. The state Court of Appeals last Wednesday thought it would reverse the trend by upholding a photo ticket and the system used to issue it.

The three-judge appellate panel found no due process problem when American Traffic Solutions mailed a $158 ticket to Rhadames Gonzalez for an alleged infraction that took place in Fort Lauderdale on August 19, 2011. Gonzalez did not pay the ticket within thirty days so a uniform traffic citation was issued demanding he pay $263. Gonzalez countered with a motion to dismiss filed in Broward County court. Gonzalez had a vehicle issued in his and his wife's name, and he argued that it was a due process to send the ticket not to the driver, but to the first listed name on the registration. Broward County Judge Steven P. Deluca agreed that this setup was unconstitutional, since there was no rational basis for treating the first name on the registration document differently than the second.

Fearing the loss of $1 million in annual revenue, Fort Lauderdale turned to the appellate court for help, which was happy to oblige using the rational basis test.

"In this appeal, we are not called upon to address the wisdom, fairness, or logic of the owner notification provision set forth in the red light camera law," Judge Carole Y. Taylor wrote for the appellate panel. "Because there is a rational basis for distinguishing between the first named owner of the vehicle and subsequent named owners, there is no equal protection or due process violation."

In the appellate court's view, the state legislature approved the policy, so the city's interpretation and implementation must be given the benefit of the doubt. Because it is easier administratively for the city and its for-profit vendor to issue to the first name, it is a rational choice.

"In this case, it was at least conceivable for the legislature to believe that, in the case of jointly owned vehicles, the first named owner on the vehicle registration is the person who drives the vehicle most frequently or who otherwise wishes to accept primary responsibility for the vehicle," Judge Taylor wrote. "Whether this is empirically true is irrelevant; rational speculation is enough to sustain the distinction."

A copy of the decision is available in a 130k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Fort Lauderdale v. Gonzalez (Court of Appeals, State of Florida, 2/5/2014)

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