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Slam the Gavel Blog

Red-Light Cameras Turned Off In Center Point

Posted by Matthew J. Hornsby on October 4, 2012 at 4:30 PM

          Not that you would ever do such a thing, but anybody driving through Center Point can run red lights without the fear of a discreet camera snapping your picture and sending you a ticket. For the last year or so, these cameras have given hundreds of tickets to drivers, who are not even aware that they have been caught until it arrives in the mail. Now, the city has “voluntarily” turned off the cameras while the courts are straightening out the procedures for handling the tickets and fines.

          The camera ticketing process begins when a sensor senses a car in the intersection during a red light. A camera snaps a picture and transmits the offense to the city clerk, who mails a ticket to the car’s registered owner. Unlike regular tickets, the offense costs no points on the driver’s abstract, but also is not handled in court, in the event the owner disputes the offense. Instead, an administrator in Center Point would hear the case. So why have the cameras been turned off? Judge Lichtenstein of the District Court in Jefferson County, who handles appeals from municipalities, has ruled that in order for the administrator to have authority, an amendment to the state constitution is required. So the city has turned the cameras off because after Judge Lichtenstein’s order, there would be no ability for a citizen to appeal one of these mailed tickets.

          An issue I would like to see addressed is how these mailed tickets can be issued without any evidence proven in court. Even a picture is not typically admissible in court without some form of foundation – some showing of how the picture came into being, who took it, etc. This foundation is a basic principle of the rules of evidence and these rules have apparently been cast aside in the realm of intersection cameras. Nobody actually takes the photo of the offender, and I doubt whoever is behind the technology of the camera will travel from California to testify in a case. So it’s the word of the offender against…nobody. I’m interested in what the result of a case would be if a frustrated and stubborn citizen (like myself) refused to pay the ticket and demanded a hearing on the evidence, based on his due process rights. How would the prosecutor go about proving a case with no testimony whatsoever regarding the who, what, when, where, and how?

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