PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - The Fourth District Court of Appeal has issued a significant ruling that effectively puts the brakes on red-light camera programs in most Florida cities.
In a nine-page ruling handed down Wednesday, the justices dismissed a uniform traffic citation issued by the city of Hollywood to Eric Arem in 2011. The court said the city cannot delegate its legal authority to issue traffic violations to a private, for-profit third party.
The third party is American Traffic Solutions (ATS), a Phoenix company which administers the red light camera programs for the majority of Florida cities that use the devices. When a driver runs a red light, the camera sends the picture and video of the violation to ATS. Company representatives review the video to determine if, in fact, a violation occurred and then sends the information to the police agency to confirm. The court said:
"For all practical purposes, it is the vendor that decides which cases the TIEO (Traffic Infraction Enforcement Officer) gets to review; it is the vendor who initially determines who is subject to prosecution for a red light violation; it is the vendor that obtains the information necessary for the completion of the citation; it is the vendor that creates the actual citation; it is the vendor that issues the citation to the registered owner of the vehicle; and, it is the vendor that eventually transmits the traffic citation data to the court."
"In Florida, only law enforcement officers and traffic enforcement officers have the legal authority to issue citations for traffic infractions, which means only law enforcement officers and traffic enforcement officers are entitled to determine who gets prosecuted for a red light violation."
The court initially ruled against the driver last year but was asked to rehear the case and has now reversed its decision.
Fort Lauderdale traffic ticket attorney Ted Hollander calls it the most significant ruling against red-light cameras to date and that thousands of pending citations in Broward and Palm Beach counties should be dismissed. He also believes cities that partner with ATS must stop issuing the violations using the current process.
"In my opinion, if you have one of these red-light camera violations, don't pay it. Take it to court because it should be dismissed," Hollander said.
It's unclear if the ruling affects cases in Miami-Dade County, because the county is part of the state's Third District. However, typically when an appellate court rules on an issue that other district courts have not considered, the other districts use that ruling as a guide on how to handle similar cases.
The city of Hollywood said it's still reviewing the ruling.
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