ARTICLE UPDATE: 2/25/19
Since this post was written, much has been happening in the Red Light Camera Ticket world. First of all, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in Jimenez v. State, on May 3, 2018, that the cities are within their rights to have these cameras installed and issue tickets. As soon as that ruling came down, it caused a huge blow to our (and all attorneys) ability to fight them. Basically, once that ruling came down, the courts had to allow the cities to write tickets and it made it nearly impossible to fight them successfully.
Now, I say it’s almost impossible to fight “successfully” it is because it has always been our philosophy at Unger & Kowitt to only charge people money to fight them IF we firmly believe that we can beat them and get them thrown out. Once that ruling came down, it became obvious that Courts were no longer going to allow the attorneys to make motions or arguments to get cases thrown out. Therefore, in almost every instance, we stopped handling these types of cases.
The one exception is if you received a Red Light Camera Ticket and forgot about it, or missed your deadline to pay the $158. If that did happen to you, your notice of violation automatically turned into a Uniform Traffic Citation and now you must pay $277.00 AND you will receive a mark on your driving record. We are fighting those mainly to keep the adjudication from appearing on your driving record, which we can do. But again, if you have the option of paying $158, we still recommend that at the moment because it’s the better and cheaper option.
If you notice, I did write “at the moment” because as you write this, new challenges are being made to the way some cities are ticketing drivers. Mainly, those making a right turn on red, and I believe those will be successful soon. As soon as that’s the case, I will blog again and keep you posted.
In my almost 20 years of helping people with their traffic tickets, no ticket has caused as much anger, frustration, and confusion as the red light camera ticket. There are many reasons, but at the very top of the list might simply be that red light camera tickets, unlike any other traffic ticket, are often issued to the person who was not driving.
Let me repeat that. You can get a ticket that will wind up on YOUR driver's license EVEN IF YOU WERE NOT DRIVING.
This is what it's come to folks. This is like having to pay someone else's mortgage when you don't get to live in their house.
You've heard the expression, "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time!" Well, in the case of red light camera tickets, the expression might as well be "We don't care who's doing the crime, we found a loophole and the owner of the vehicle is going to pay every time." Not quite as catchy, I admit, but it's more accurate.
You might be wondering how we got here. Since the beginning of time, traffic tickets including red light tickets were given by a police officer and handed to a person who was behind the wheel. Like many things where technology is involved, just because something can be done doesn't necessarily mean that it should be done.
You see, all of this nonsense was started after a private company in Arizona spent millions lobbying our representatives in Tallahassee when our financial picture was at a low point. Cities and municipalities desperate for a few extra bucks were all too eager to embrace a deal that seemed "too good to be true." And like many deals made out of desperation, when times change, you look back and wonder what you were thinking.
Our legislators were talked into a deal that allowed this private company to set up equipment that didn't have to photograph the driver of the vehicle (as that would probably cost extra), just the license plate; and through a quick search of the records, identify the owner, and BAM, out went the ticket and in came the revenue.
Just like that, these things were popping up all over the place.
And they have statistics that claim accidents are down, so it must be a good thing. No one ever bothered to check whether what was happening was a violation of the constitution.
I would argue accidents would come down if we lowered the speed limit on the highway from 65 in many areas to 45, but no one's clamoring for that. I would argue that accidents would be way down if they brought back the inspections and removed from the roadways, all the cars that have bald tires, no windshield wipers, faulty brakes or broken lights; but no one's lobbying for those to return either.
You see, I'm all for public safety. In fact, I would have no problem with more police officers on our roadways, as I believe a visual police presence keeps people in line and makes people feel safer. However, since the advent of these red light camera tickets, there are actually less police on the roads and more sitting in air-conditioned rooms watching video to help determine if someone actually ran a light.
Which goes back to the point of the article which is when an officer hands you a ticket, everyone involved agrees it's being given to the person who allegedly committed the violation.
How would you feel if you were a passenger in the back seat, asleep while your friend drove your car and the next thing you know, you're being woken up by a police officer handing you a ticket because your friend failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. It would be crazy and you would have every right to object.
Yet, that's exactly what's happening with these red light camera tickets. The way around the difficulty of proving who was actually driving was the agreement between the legislators and the private company to not add points to the person's driving record. No points they figured would be sufficient to allow them to bend the constitution.
Sure you can try and fill out an affidavit and let them know the actual driver's name, date of birth, driver's license number, blood type, and favorite dish in a Chinese restaurant, all within 30 days of receiving the ticket in the mail which is not sent certified. And if they can determine who it is you're trying to rat out, err I mean identify, they might issue the ticket in that person's name. That sounds nice on paper, but that's not the way the system works.
We don't arrest innocent people and demand they tell us if they know anyone who committed a crime, that's the job of the police.
And one of the dirty little secrets of the red light camera ticket world is that the first notification gets sent via regular mail and it requires a person to pay $158.00 and it will get treated like a parking ticket. Pay it and there will be no record. Kind of like the mob. Drop off an envelope of cash and keep walking, no one will get hurt.
However, should you not get the first notice (with our current mail, I can't imagine that ever happening), they increase the fine almost 75% and ask you to pay almost $270.00 (and have a mark on your driving record) for the exact same violation that just 30 days ago cost $158.00. This would make any mobster blush.
And yet, as bad as all that is, there's an entire group of people who NEVER receive the first notice and are never given the chance pay the $158.00. If you rent a car in Florida, you'll never see the first notice. It goes to the owner of the vehicle remember. So your car rental company will get the first notice and inform them that you had the car during that time and instead of asking you to pay $158, you'll get hit with the higher fine after back from your vacation. Talk about a souvenir.
"THANKS FOR VISITING OUR STATE, WE'RE GOING TO RIP YOU OFF ONE LAST TIME"
It's just sad and frustrating how no one in Tallahassee has been standing up and saying this must stop. As I've been saying, it's only a matter of time before speed cameras get set up and stop sign cameras get set up. Man, the Google self-driving car can't get here fast enough.
If you received a red light camera ticket and you want to fight back, give us a call at 800-489-4125 and we'll watch the video for free and tell you what we think.