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Smile! You’re on Camera Running a Red Light

As of September 8, running a red light at some Broward County intersections will be captured on camera, and subject to a $158 fine.

In May, Gov. Charlie Crist signed HB 325 into law, authorizing local governments to use the cameras as enforcement devices, setting statewide standards and traffic fines for them.

The vehicle owner will receive a citation in the mail, but won’t be issued a traffic violation, so no license points; the owner can appeal the fine. The driver won’t be ticketed for rolling stops, or slowing down and approaching the intersection with caution. Drivers should note, though, that cities have 30 days to send the violations, so you could rack up multiple offenses that all arrive in the mail a month later.

Fort Lauderdale Red Light Camera Law FirmThe city of Fort Lauderdale has approved cameras in 10 locations and so far installed six.

Some Broward cities, including Pembroke Pines and Hallandale Beach, have been using cameras, and now must comply with the new state standards. That’s a plus – before the bill’s enactment, cities could fine anyone who didn’t come to a full stop before turning at an intersection with a camera.

Pines Mayor Frank Ortis, a big fan of the cameras, said that since one was installed at 129th Avenue and Pines Boulevard in 2008, there’s been a dramatic change in the incidence of red-light runners.

“My whole goal was to save lives,” Ortis said.

In fact, the bill’s proponents urged its passage as a life-saving measure. It is named the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act for a Bradenton man killed in 2003 by a driver who ran a red light. Wandall’s wife, Melissa, has been pressing for the bill ever since.

“This bill will curb the behavior of red-light running,” she told the Sun-Sentinel in an interview after the bill was passed in April. “That’s what this is about, reducing crashes and fatalities at intersections.”

Using covers, tints, or any other tricks to obscure your license plate could get you in even more trouble than running a light; Florida law requires that your entire plate be visible, and use of covers is illegal on roadways.

Aventura was the first South Florida city to install intersection cameras, in 2008. In Broward, they’ve been approved in Hollywood, Davie, Coral Springs and, most recently, Plantation. Margate and Tamarac are also considering them.

Despite all this enthusiasm for the new law, the motive being purely about public safety has been questioned. In a recent editorial, Miami Herald columnist Daniel Shoer Roth expressed skepticism, pointing how expensive it is to appeal a ticket and nearly impossible to win, discouraging challenges.  He agreed with others who believe the real motive is an easy revenue source.

The roadblocks to fighting a camera-issued citation have not prevented challenges to the law’s constitutionality, although Crist has expressed confidence the state is on solid legal ground. Stay tuned.

1 Comment

  • Norm Channell says:

    I’m a former law enforcement officer from a Florida municipality and I’m currently a criminal investigator for a state agency. I recently had a relative come to me with a question regarding 316.0083 and how it ties in with 316.075, the red light statute. It is lawful for a police officer to write a citation for a civil infraction (which this statute is) if it takes place in his presence and the officer stops the vehicle to identify the driver. The citation is issued to the driver and not the vehicle. 316.0083 give one the opportunity to see a video clip and without being identified as the driver say “you got me, where can I mail in my fine?” If one wishes not to mail in the fine within 30 days, a police officer (or non sworn with proper traffic training) gets to look at the vehicle, get the REGISTERED OWNER’s name and issue them a citation for 316.075. This is magical jump that the agency makes from a violation notice against a vehicle to a traffic citation against the registered owner of the vehicle without proving (as is necessary when enforcing the 316.075 civil infraction) exactly who it is (the driver) that is violating this traffic law. The burden of proof is suddenly on the vehicle’s owner to prove that he or she in fact was not behind the wheel. As it turns out in the case of my relative, she found out that her license was suspended months after the suspension was placed on her license because the company, ATS sent both the first notification and the officer sent the traffic citation to an address in which she has never resided. Moreover, the vehicle is not even registered in her name. This is one example (and who knows how many other Charlie Foxtrots) have caused others innocent of any violation the grief of having to settle the mess that was in my opinion, unconstitutional to begin with!! I notice that both cities in Brevard County which have enacted these light cameras are in trouble budgetwise. It needs to be stopped, you cannot make the leap to civil infraction committed in the presence of an officer to catching a vehicle breaking the traffic law for the purpose of generating revenue, making the city safer or any other reason.

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