This weekly post features recent news stories that highlight and update themes previously covered throughout NMA E-Newsletters and Alerts.
Editor’s Note: The Arizona Legislature is closer than ever to passing legislation that would ban red-light and speed cameras statewide. Senate Bill 1167 has already passed through committee and will move to the Senate floor for a vote. Similar bills have been proposed over the years, but all have failed. The fact that Phoenix is home to the two largest ticket camera companies in the country may have something to do with it. However, things are different this time. The proposal appears to have broader support. Striking such a blow to the camera industry on its home field would be significant. Given the abuses that photo enforcement has perpetrated on drivers in Arizona, described in the e-newsletter below, it can’t come soon enough.
NMA Email Newsletter Issue #76: Photo Ticket Games
Issue #71 of this newsletter series, entitled “Police Protected,” highlighted a story of several Los Angeles area officers who had piled up dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of unpaid parking tickets without retribution. This is an account of a law enforcement officer who was not so lucky; in fact, his story highlights many of the inequities of how traffic tickets can be handled.
After hearing an NMA staffer interviewed on a Los Angeles radio station a couple of months ago, a Southern California federal law enforcement agent called our office to describe what had happened to him. The agent was on the job in Arizona in April 2009, surveilling a suspect. He didn’t know it at the time, but a highway speed camera picked up his government-issued rental car allegedly going 78 mph in a 65 mph zone.
To this day he has not seen the photo ticket issued by the Maryvale Justice Court. The first the agent heard of the ticket was in January of this year, when a collection agency caught up with him, hounding him for the $306.42 he supposedly owed. Knowing that the Arizona Supreme Court already had ruled that photo tickets were not considered valid unless delivered via personal service, he initially requested a dismissal on that basis. That motion was denied because the court claimed the ticket was delivered and signed for months earlier — by a 5’-8”, 180 pound gentleman in his mid-60s, a description that isn’t even close to matching the agent in question. The process server didn’t even walk away with the name of the person he handed the ticket to, but the court recognized that exchange as legally putting the agent on notice.
With the NMA’s help, the agent found an attorney who was willing to represent him pro bono. A motion to dismiss based on the on-duty surveillance status of the agent was denied. After getting one continuance for the trial date, a subsequent request for a postponement due to scheduling conflicts by both the defendant and his attorney was denied at the last minute. Because of a non-appearance by the defendant, a guilty verdict was handed down.
While the law enforcement status of the defendant adds an interesting twist to this story, it doesn’t change its most fundamental and disturbing component: How due process can be skirted, even subverted, even in a state that added an extra layer of due process protection by requiring photo tickets to be personally served.