4/8/2014Virginia Governor Sides With Red Light Cameras
Virginia governor vetoes non-controversial red light camera reform on behalf of photo ticketing industry.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) vetoed legislation Monday that passed unanimously in the House of Delegates and 38 to 1 in the state Senate that would have given red light camera ticket recipients the option of seeking an extra layer of due process.
"Any finding in a district court that an operator has violated an ordinance adopted as provided in this section shall be appealable to the circuit court in a civil proceeding," House Bill 1040 stated.
The measure would have affected few individuals, as most recipients of the $50 fine find it easier to pay than to take the time to challenge it in court. The proposal would only have given the vehicle owner who does go to the trouble of fighting an option in case he loses. A photo ticket battle loss in district court could have been appealed within ten days in circuit court, which is a court of record. In Virginia, all traffic tickets for moving violations can be appealed to the circuit court at no extra cost in a trial de novo, which means the case is heard again as if the first trial had never happened. The state's circuit courts recognize the right of trial by jury, even for traffic offenses.
To defeat all legislation that would affect red light cameras, Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia hired the lobbying firm of Hunton and Williams to influence the General Assembly and the McAuliffe administration. The firm showered the newly sworn in governor with campaign cash, including $25,000 for his inauguration, $10,599 for his gubernatorial run, $10,000 to the state Democratic Party and $17,836 for McAuliffe's lieutenant governor and attorney general, plus their inaugural festivities.
In standing up for the photo enforcement industry, McAuliffe follows his predecessor, Governor Bob McDonnell, who signed several bills backed by the camera industry to repeal requirements that localities only install cameras at intersections where they could show a genuine safety need. Both McAuliffe and McDonnell supported red light cameras, despite the Virginia Department of Transportation's finding that accidents and injuries increased at photo enforced intersections in the commonwealth (view report). The department also points out that recipients of photo tickets in the mail may throw them away without consequence.
"Although the statute permits the jurisdiction to make the initial attempt to summon the accused to court via mail, if the person fails to respond, he or she is not considered to have been satisfactorily served with notice," VDOT explained of the statute which remains in effect. "The average citizen is probably not aware of this loophole, but if word were widely disseminated, such knowledge could completely undermine the effectiveness of red light camera programs, as citations issued to violators would lose their practical impact."