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Two Florida Cities to Install Illegal Red Light Cameras
Pembroke Pines and Gulf Breeze, Florida prepare to install red light cameras in defiance of the Attorney General and legislature.

Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank OrtisIn a mad dash to install ticket cameras, two Florida cities are set to run a red light established by the state legislature and Attorney General. Today, the Pembroke Pines City Commission is expected to approve an ordinance that would set up red light camera enforcement, despite an explicit warning from the state's top law enforcement official that it could not do so without new legislative authority. The city of Gulf Breeze adopted a similar resolution on August 15.

After Pembroke Pines asked Attorney General Charlie Crist if it had the authority to issue $100 camera tickets, Crist responded in July that, "legislative changes are necessary before local governments may issue traffic citations and penalize drivers."

The state legislature has likewise refused to make any legislative changes, rejecting the requests of Pembroke Pines and Gulf Breeze. "It's all about profits, under the guise of public safety," said Florida Senate President Tom Lee.

Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis wants to get around the prohibition by making red light running a civil infraction. Crist had already rejected this argument in his letter, explaining that Florida's uniform traffic code is designed to deal with traffic crimes in a consistent manner throughout the state and that the red light running statute requires a human witness for the offense. The same law specifically forbids a city from merely adopting an ordinance to turn an already criminal offense -- like red light running -- into a civil infraction. Crist cites Florida Statutes 316.007, "no local authority shall enact or enforce any ordinance on a matter covered by this chapter unless expressly authorized."

"It seems to me a civil violation is highly questionable because it just seems like an attempt to get around the statute," Nova Southeastern University constitutional law professor Bob Jarvis told the Miami Herald.

Pembroke Pines will issue warnings for six-months before it begins collecting money from citations. Gulf Breeze plans to begin collecting $100 citations after cameras are installed in a few months.

Source: City presses stoplight-camera plan (Miami Herald, 9/7/2005)

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