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FL: Red light camera company sued over unconstitutional tickets

What a wreck!

Red light camera programs in Florida are in a state of flux after a Florida District Court of Appeals judge said the current system of issuing tickets is unconstitutional.

On Monday, a class action lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Miami, seeking $5 million in damages from American Traffic Solutions, which operates most of the cameras in the state. The lawsuit also demands that ATS reimburse every driver who has paid tickets issued by the company.

But its not the only lawsuit against ATS in the Sunshine State. So far, plaintiffs have filed three suits.

Harold Goldberg filed his lawsuit last week.  He was issued a $158 ticket by ATS in 2011.

“ATS, acting as a contractor to and agent for various Florida municipalities and counties, under color of state law, violated plaintiffs’ right to due process of law under the US Constitution,” Goldberg’s lawyer wrote in his complaint.

The complain continues:

“Although section 316.0083 of the Florida Statutes authorizes the use of red light cameras to enforce violations, its language specifically requires that a TIEO [Traffic Infraction Enforcement Officer] review the alleged violation and issue any NOV [notice of violation] or UTC [uniform traffic citation] arising out of the alleged violation. The statute makes clear that only a TIEO is to review images or video to determine whether a violation has occurred — there is no carve-out for a vendor to perform a preliminary analysis.”

In order for any of these class action suits to move forward, a judge must certify them.

In response to the lawsuits, an ATS spokesman told Local10, “ATS does not have the authority to decide whether or not a violation is issued.  That decision is entirely in the hands of the customer.”

The ruling last month by the Florida District Court of Appeals said the camera companies cannot be the party to issue the tickets.

“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 ruling read.

Going forward, this means that cities have to issue the tickets, not the red light camera company. Already, several municipalities have suspended issuing red light camera tickets pending further court action.

Fines issued by the cameras last fiscal year totaled about $100 million, so local governments have a financial incentive to keep the cameras going. But with the legality of tickets in question and lawsuits filed in federal court, the future of red light camera revenue is in jeopardy.

Josh Kaib

Josh Kaib is the Assistant Editor of Watchdog Wire. Twitter: @joshkaib

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