Thursday, July 25, 2013

 

Miami's red light cameras back in action on Friday

Miami is set to join a string of other cities across the country that hold their own hearings on red-light camera tickets, a process some argue is flawed.

Miami red-light cameras back in action: Red-light cameras Miami tickets
An automated traffic enforcement camera in Miami.


An automated traffic enforcement camera in Miami.

After a nearly month-long hiatus, Miami will resume issuing red-light traffic tickets Friday, as it convenes a special board to hear citation appeals.

Although the city's 153 cameras at 98 intersections were still on, Miami temporarily suspended its red-light camera program on July 1 because of a new state law that requires cities to take responsibility for the red-light ticket appeals process.

Although supporters of the law say the creation of an appeals board will provide citizens with more options, motorist advocacy groups say moving the appeals process out of an actual court takes away many of the legal protections a defendant could have.

"It's really designed to discourage people from trying to fight these tickets," said John Bowman of the National Motorists Association. "I have yet to discover how this serves the public interest — making it hard for people to defend themselves has nothing to do with public safety."

And it's not just Florida: Many other states also have handed over red-light camera violations to local administrations, which basically informalizes the process, Bowman said.

Some cities have faced problems with the way they conduct their hearings.

In Toledo, Ohio, photo enforcement administrative hearings were recently ruled unconstitutional by an appeals court, while in Las Cruces, N.M., a judge found that hearings offered to red-light camera and speed-camera violators violated due process.

Calls to the city of Miami for comment about its new program and how it will be different were not returned.
The Miami Herald quoted city commissioners voting in favor of the program as saying that traffic cameras have made Miami's streets safer.

Red-light cameras remain highly profitable for cities. According to the Miami Herald, Miami makes $3.4 million annually from more than 1,200 citations issued every month.

And, as Bowman notes, "As part of the appeals process — if you appeal your case, defend yourself, and if they still find you guilty, they can charge you up to an additional $85 administrative fee."

"They basically just want people to pay the fine and go away," he said.

Other cities in Florida such as Davie, Hollywood and Coral Gables have already established citation review boards.

Miami's city commissioner, Frank Carollo, has expressed concerns about Miami's plan, questioning whether the city has the resources and expertise to handle Miami's huge volume of citations.
Mayoral hopeful Francis Suarez wanted to use the new state law to end cameras entirely, CBS Miami reported.

"We have more cameras in the city of Miami than the next six cities in the state of Florida combined. And I think we have more cameras in the city than in the city of New York, which is 20 more times larger than the city of Miami," Suarez said.

Bowman said that in most cases, people who are designated by cities to listen to appeals are not required to be a judge or a lawyer.

"They are not legal proceedings, they are set up and run by communities that are administering the red-light camera program," he said. "The city acts as the judge in case a motorist wants to appeal."
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