2/23/2016Florida Court Nullifies Red Light Camera Ticket
Circuit Court appellate panel in Orange County, Florida overturns ticket because private vendor has too much power.
American Traffic Solutions (ATS) has too much control over traffic tickets in Orlando, Florida. That was the conclusion last week of a unanimous three-judge appellate panel of the Orange County Circuit Court in overturning the citation issued by a for-profit Arizona company to Kelli B. Hastings.
Hastings, a lawyer, reviewed case law in other jurisdictions and discovered the Fourth District's Hollywood v. Arem decision that found municipalities could not delegate complete control over citations to a vendor (view ruling). Orlando is in the Ninth District, so the case had to be argued from scratch.
Under cross-examination before an administrative hearing, Orlando Officer Charles Jones admitted that ATS reviews citations to determine not whether a violation of the law occurred, but "whether the light turned red and the vehicle entered into the intersection." Hastings moved to dismiss on the grounds that this was an unlawful delegation of police powers. The hearing officer, a city employee, refused to hear the motion.
"Factually I can only come to one conclusion, that you violated the law and you committed the infraction," the hearing officer ruled. "I don't personally -- personally or legally -- see a problem with the delegation. I don't think it does violate the statute."
The appellate panel disagreed with the hearing officer, finding the Orlando ticketing procedure identical to the one found unlawful in the Arem case.
"Officer Jones's testimony indicated that the city instructed ATS employees to determine whether an event occurred and than described it as occurring when 'the light turned red and the vehicle entered into the intersection,'" Judge Jose R. Rodriguez wrote for the panel. "This tracks the statutory language and appears to encourage ATS employees to make the initial judgment as to whether the statute was violated."
The appellate panel found it had no choice to follow the direction of the Court of Appeal, since no other appellate court had come to a contrary conclusion. The decision overturned the ticket that ATS issued to Hastings.
A copy of the ruling is available in a 305k PDF file at the source link below.