Red Light Camera Violations
UPDATE: Florida courts are finally catching up to the reality that the way they are handling these cases are illegal. Recently an appellate court ruled that red light camera tickets should not be issued because officers merely sign off on what the camera companies (usually ATS) think should be a violation. Also, the federal courts have now gotten involved in the Southern District of Florida where a judge ruled that a class action against ATS can go forward arguing that the red light cameras are illegal and unconstitutional. (Note: it is a civil case, so it may take months or years before that is finally ruled upon). Common sense legal argument that judges in Florida (at least for now) must follow, so it is important to hire an experienced attorney to make these legal arguments as your best chance of getting a case dismissed.
NEW UPDATE: The Florida Supreme Court has denied the City of Hollywood's appeal to overturn the case I cited earlier. This means that the case stands and the way that cities are doing business with ATS will no longer be allowed. In other words, this means that cities must either stop using the red light cameras, or they can adjust their procedures so that it fits the law (this scenario is probably more likely, but stay tuned). Again, I stress that if you wish to fight these tickets, you need to get experienced counsel to make these and other legal arguments.
WHERE ARE THE RED LIGHT CAMERAS IN PINELLAS COUNTY, TAMPA, HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, AND PASCO COUNTY AND WHAT CAN I DO TO FIGHT THESE?
The government has a new weapon at their disposal in trying to catch people at running a red light. It has yet to be determined whether or not these red light cameras are even legal or constitutional under Florida law. Even as late as May, 2015 an appeals court would not decide one of the many constitutional challenges to this statute that we continue to fight for our clients. Our law office has entered the battle to defend people charged with this offense. The law office of Craig Epifanio, P.A. has defended people in all parts of Tampa Bay. See below for some of the most common intersections where these red light cameras are located.
There are many legal grounds to challenge this law. In the United States we are blessed to have a constitution that not only prevents people from being required to testify against themselves but also requires the government to prove their guilt and not the accused to prove their innocence. However, since this is exactly what Fla. Stat. 316.0083 requires a person to do, then this is one area to challenge the constitutionality of the law. Furthermore, Due Process allows a person to remain silent and REQUIRE the government to prove guilt of even an infraction, beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt. So if the camera only shows the “owner” of the vehicle and not the actual “driver” of the vehicle, then how can this be legal? In the preliminary challenges that my office and others have done, some, but not all, judges are saying that there is a rebuttable presumption of the owner being the driver. Also, some judges require the owner to come forward with evidence of innocence. While the statute does allow a person to simply submit an affidavit, notions of due process should not require a person to prove their innocence. Since the founding of our country, if the Government is going to take either our liberty (as in jail) or our property (such as fines), then it has ALWAYS been the Government’s burden to prove that the person being charged is actually the person who committed the law violation. This statute throws that concept out the window.
However, our office is challenging this law on other grounds as well. In addition to the Constitutional grounds there are various legal challenges that can be made based on existing precedence and Court rules. Among other things, there are still rules of hearsay, and this statute allows a person to be convicted on pure hearsay. Florida law has never allowed that. Further, there are authentication of the records used to convict a person of this red light infraction. American Traffic Solutions (ATS) does not have a representative from their company to authenticate any picture or video of the vehicle. In fact, ATS, does not even allow a person access to their evidence. ATS is set to make a lot of money from these camera systems. The St. Petersburg Times on September 8, 2011, has said that it will cost $3.7 million dollars over three years to maintain and run this system in St. Petersburg alone. That cost will be covered from the fines recovered. In fact, according to Tampa Bay Online article in August, 2012, in St. Petersburg, they collected $1.2 million dollars in 11 months and Tampa has grabbed an astonishing $2.3 million dollars in 10 month’s time. Cities and counties expect to make about $1 million dollars on top of what they have to pay ATS. Clearly a money grab for the jurisdictions who have these camera systems which is put on the back of citizens in an economy where hard working citizens can barely afford it. In fact, a December 2012 report on the St. Petersburg intersections with red light cameras show that accidents actually INCREASED by 10%, further reinforcing the fact that these cameras are not about safety, but about revenue.
One of the most important challenges our office has made is in respect to proving the identity of the driver. There is no photo of the driver, only the license plate tag. However, on infractions, when a person is represented by an attorney, they are not required to appear in court. Despite this, Florida law still requires that the officer prove the identity of the driver. When challenging these citations, this rule of law has become one of the most powerful weapons to fight this statute. Even if one were to admit to their attorney that they were actually driving, it does not change the fact that our country is founded on the principle that the Government must prove their case, and the accused does not have to disprove anything. The Law office of Craig Epifanio, P.A. is dedicated to fighting these types of tickets as well as any other traffic or criminal violation where the Government exceeds their power.
UPDATE: Our persistence in challenging these violations are starting to pay off. In March 2014, the St. Petersburg city council decided to abandon the red light program in the city. Based in part on dwindling revenue (which reinforces the fact that this is solely about the money), but also the fact that when persuaded to install the red light cameras, the city council heard a sad story about how his brother was killed by someone who ran a red light. It turns out that there was no evidence he even had a brother, but more shockingly, he worked for the red light camera industry. Hopefully this will be a lesson to other cities and counties thinking about adopting these money grabbing red light cameras, but for now I'm happy to remove my section below listing the St. Petersburg intersections with red light cameras. (Note however, if you received your St. Petersburg Notice of Violation BEFORE March 2014, then you will still have to comply).
I have created a mostly comprehensive, but not all-inclusive, list below as a public service so that you and others you may know are aware of the many red light camera intersections throughout the Tampa Bay area that are either already in use or about to be in use:
|PINELLAS COUNTY||HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY||PASCO COUNTY|
New Port Richey:
Feel free to contact my office with additional locations so that we can keep the public aware of these red light camera locations.