NMA E-Newsletter #139: Faulty Photo Enforcement

We present two stories of traffic injustice by camera. Of course, the ticket camera is just an inanimate object used as a tool to perpetrate the injustice. It is the camera companies and municipal/state bureaucrats who trampled on the rights of the motorists involved.

The first tale may seem like a red-light camera urban myth, but as reported by a Miami, Florida television station, the story and the consequences were very real.

This past May, Pedro Dominguez laid his mother to rest, but only after the funeral procession was ticketed by a red-light camera at the intersection of 135th Street and 27th Avenue in Opa-Locka, Florida.

Video evidence showed three police officers, hired by the Dominguez family, stopping traffic and waving the procession through the intersection. No matter. Five vehicles received photo tickets at $158 apiece, including the limo transporting the grieving family members.

Mr. Dominguez appealed the tickets with the camera company, American Traffic Solutions (where have we heard that name before?), and received a curt response: “The affidavit of non-responsibility did not establish an exemption and will not result in a dismissal or a transfer of the violation at this time.”

A South Florida investigative reporter got involved and verified that local law permits vehicles to pass through a red light if directed to do so by a police officer.

After the case became highly publicized, an Opa-Locka police sergeant took another look at the video, agreed that the police officers directing the funeral procession were clearly visible, and dismissed the tickets.

The second tale occurred about as far away from Opa-Locka as is possible while still being within the continental United States. A Beaverton, Oregon resident forwarded his tale of frustration to the NMA.

After donating a car to Volunteers of America and receiving new registration papers in the mail, the philanthropist dutifully contacted the Oregon DMV to make sure they recognized the car had a new owner. There was no acknowledgement from the state agency.

That was two years ago. Recently, our frustrated friend received a summons in the mail with photo evidence purporting that the car in question had run a red light.

After several unsuccessful attempts to clarify why the ticket shouldn’t be his and a refusal to pay the ticket, the Beaverton man had his driver license revoked by the state.

Ultimately, a judge wrote a letter to clear up the situation, but because the letter on the judge’s official stationery wasn’t notarized, the Oregon DMV initially refused to accept it. No good deed goes… well, you know.

It is interesting that whenever we mention one of our primary objections to photo enforcement — that the cameras do not positively identify the driver, making the vehicle owner legally guilty unless he/she can prove otherwise — the pro-camera lobby says that is a nonissue because the owner still has the right to appear in court to clear things up.

In other words, that pesky “innocent until proven guilty” bedrock principle of the American justice system isn’t important as long as the accused can have his/her day in court.

We know of a couple of innocent folks in Opa-Locka, Florida and Beaverton, Oregon who, while vindicated in the final analysis, would have a thing or two to say about that cavalier assessment.

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