8/4/2020Delaware Supreme Court Denies Due Process To Photo Ticket Recipients
Photo ticket recipients in Delaware may not challenge their red light or speed camera tickets beyond the JP.
Motorists who receive unjust speed camera or red light camera fines in Delaware have no recourse beyond hearing in the Justice of the Peace Court. That was the conclusion the state Supreme Court reached last week in rejecting the appeal of Stanley C. Lowicki, recipient of a $172.50 bill mailed by a private, for-profit vendor. The high court pointed to a state law that only allows the challenging of civil traffic fines that are over $100.
"A person found responsible for a civil traffic offense shall have a right of appeal only in those cases in which the civil penalty imposed exceeds $100," Delaware Code Section 4101 states.
To avoid allowing court challenges, officials take the $172.50 collected for each ticket and designate the cash according to the following uses: $25 for court costs, $10 for court security fees, $37.50 for the transportation trust fund, $7.50 for the state police, $7.50 for local law enforcement, $10 for the ambulance fund -- leaving $75 for the amount labeled "fine." Lowicki argued that the whole cost of $172.50 was the "civil penalty" referenced in state law.
The law authorizing traffic cameras also states that the civil assessment is "not to exceed $110" for a fine paid on time. It also states that court costs and administrative fees may not exceed $35, and that no assessments "other than those specified" may be imposed.
Those words do not apply here, the high court insisted, because the photo ticketing law was adopted in 2005. The General Assembly two years later passed a law imposing fees for the various funds that apply in all court cases.
"We conclude that only the Fine Amount -- and not the Court Costs, Court Security Fee, or Fund Amounts -- constitutes the "civil penalty" for purposes of determining whether the amount exceeds $100 and thus gives rise to a right of appeal," Justice James T. Vaughn Jr wrote for the court. "As the fund amounts, court costs, and court security fee were not part of the 'civil penalty' within the meaning of 21 Delaware Code Section 4101(d)(12), and the fine alone was not more than $100, Lowicki had no right of appeal in this case."
A copy of the ruling is available in a 200k PDF file at the source link below.