Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Delaware Court Overturns Hearsay Traffic Stops
A police officer may not pull over and search a motorist because he heard from a cop in another car say that the motorist failed to use a turn signal, a New Castle County, Delaware court ruled on Thursday. Judge Diane Clarke Streett denied the state's attempts to rehear the case of Dilip S. Nyala on the grounds that certain types of traffic stops allow one officer to radio his observation of an alleged violation to another. Under Delaware law, police may team up with an observing officer to issue tickets for speeding, red light running, cell phone use or lack of seat belt use. All other alleged violations must be committed in the police officer's presence. Police started following Nyala on October 1, 2013, after an informant claimed the man was involved in a drug deal. Detectives tried to obtain a search warrant, but the judge was not available. So they went out looking for a traffic violation that they could use as a pretext to stop and search Nyala's silver 2012 Nissan Altima as it drove on North Scott Street in Wilmington. Agent Toolan, who was in an unmarked Pontiac G6, claimed the Altima turned right without signaling. Toolan reported this over the radio, and one of the three other police vehicles that were following Nyala conducted a traffic stop. There was no obvious contraband in view in the Altima, but officers hauled Nyala away from the scene in handcuffs. No traffic ticket was issued. Without being read his rights, Nyala consented to a search of his apartment where 17 grams of heroin, 48 grams of crack and 66 grams of marijuana were found. Nyala's lawyer had this evidence suppressed as the result of an illegal arrest. "Here, there is no evidence that the officers personally observed defendant commit a traffic code violation in their presence or that there was a speed or red light violation (where the arresting officer is working in conjunction with a reading or observing officer), the officers lacked probable cause to arrest defendant for a Title 21 violation," Judge Streett ruled. "Here, the officers did not have an arrest warrant or a reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity to stop defendant." The court deemed the consent "tainted" and found the evidence was seized as a result of a Fourth Amendment violation. The court found no new arguments were offered by prosecutors attempting to overturn the decision. A copy of the September 11 decision is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Delaware v. Nyala (Delaware Superior Court, 9/11/2014)
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
New Jersey Senate Committee Votes To Ban Out-Of-State Photo Tickets
Democratic and Republican members of the New Jersey Senate Transportation Committee are in full agreement on one thing: Red light cameras and speed cameras are about making money, not improving traffic safety. The panel on Tuesday unanimously approved a measure modeled after a South Dakota law that would immunize the state's residents from photo enforcement tickets issued by other jurisdictions. The measure, championed by state Assemblyman Declan J. O'Scanlon Jr (R-Monmouth), forbids the state Motor Vehicle Commission from cooperating with NLETS, the interstate motor vehicle information network that red light camera and speed camera companies use to look up the license plate and registration information on out-of-state drivers. Without this information, the ticket cannot be mailed. Two dozen towns currently use red light cameras in New Jersey under five-year pilot program that will expire before the end of the year unless a new law is enacted. Governor Chris Christie (R), after waffling on the issue, has indicated that he may not sign a bill to renew the program, even if one were to reach his desk. "I have concerns about it, and my inclination is not to continue it," Christie said in an August 28 speech in Sea Bright. O'Scanlon, the leading opponent of the cameras in the legislature, says the cameras are done in the Garden State. He wants to do more than just outlaw cameras. "Our program here will die a merciful death on December 16, but New Jersey should go further, which this bill will do, and stop us from being complicit in what amounts to theft from our motorists," O'Scanlon said Tuesday. "If our red light camera program here is a disaster for motorists and motorist rights, the programs in other states are catastrophic for those rights. They have even less checks and balances on them." O'Scanlon cited the Washington, DC inspector general's report (view audit) that found the program in the nation's capital was a "wild west" where tickets were mailed to individuals regardless of whether they did anything wrong. Chairman Nicholas J. Sacco (D-North Bergen) pointed to the the way Maryland and New York have specifically been placing speed cameras in areas designed to trap out-of-state drivers. "It just seems unfair, and we don't have them [speed cameras]," Sacco said. "So why should we have to enrich the coffers of states that have them? They're simply money-makers... South Dakota showed a lot of courage. I look at this as an abuse of New Jersey drivers and I'm happy that we all agree." A copy of O'Scanlon's bill is available in a 20k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Assembly Number A3527 (New Jersey Legislature, 9/15/2014)
Monday, September 15, 2014
Florida: Red Light Camera Ballot Battle Hits The Courtroom
Officials from the city of Brooksville, Florida have been conspiring with photo ticketing vendors to keep residents from having a say in whether red light cameras are used in the community. Patrick and Shirley Miketinac successfully filed a petition calling for a vote on a city charter amendment that would outlaw the use of cameras. As soon as the supervisor of elections certified that a sufficient number of petition signatures were valid, the city's leadership began coordinating with Sensys, the private company that runs the camera program, to block the Miketinacs' access to the ballot. "This is the answer from our lawyers," the head of US operations for Sensys, Carlos Lofstedt, wrote in a June 11 email to the Brooksville's city attorney and city manager. "'I agree that a lawsuit needs to be filed in order to try to prevent it from going on the ballot. It looks like they covered the bases.'" Brooksville filed the first lawsuit to block the election by arguing the proposed charter amendment impermissibly forbids the city council from doing something authorized by state law. This was followed by the formation of a camera industry front group, Keep Florida Roads Safe, on August 25. On the same day, the group filed a separate lawsuit to block the vote. "They claim it's a grassroots organization," Patrick Miketinac told TheNewspaper. "When they came to the case management hearing, there were only two lawyers -- maybe more, I'm not sure -- but not one blade of grass or a grass root anywhere to be seen, except for our people. We filled the courtroom." The front group was initially registered at the address of a sixteen-unit apartment building in Miami, four blocks away from the US office of the Swedish red light camera company Sensys. After WTSP-TV began investigating, the group filed corrected papers on September 5 that moved the headquarters to Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County. American Traffic Solutions, which holds the majority of photo ticketing contracts in Florida, admitted involvement in the group to WTSP. Patrick Miketinac believes the charter amendment language will hold up in court because it was drafted by Hernando County commissioners, who initially intended a countywide vote on banning cameras. He is also confident that residents are on his side. When he started going door-to-door to talk to neighbors, Miketinac found about nine out of ten people he approached supported the effort.. "Some people from a distance started running to try to hurry up and sign the petition," Miketinac said. A hearing is scheduled next month on the motion for a declaratory judgment on the petition's validity.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Maryland, France, Germany: Speed Cameras Shoved, Shot, Spraypainted
A police officer rammed a speed camera in Berlin, Germany last week Sunday. According to Bild, the patrol van was involved in an accident with another vehicle and spun into the camera mounted on a traffic island. In Centreville, Maryland, vigilantes on August 31 kicked over two speed cameras set up on Railroad Avenue, the Easton, Maryland Star Democrat reported. Both automated ticketing machines were unable to issue tickets until they were readjusted on September 2. Police have no idea who might be responsible. In St. Gerand-le-Puy, France, vigilantes shot a speed camera on the RN7, hitting it three times according to La Montagne. Also on Monday, a pair of speed cameras in Brittany were disabled. Ouest France reports that the automated ticketing machines on the N165 in Kervignac and on the D769 in Cleguer were spraypainted orange. In Condezaygues, green was the color of choice on Tuesday as vigilantes disabled the automated ticketing machine for the third time this year, according to Sud Ouest.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Federal Government Pours $25 Million Into New York Anti-Driving Campaign
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's controversial "Vision Zero" program of deploying speed cameras, reducing speed limits and massively ramping up the issuance of traffic tickets has received the blessing of the Obama administration. On Tuesday, the US Department of Transportation announced $25 million in federal gas tax funds would be given New York City Department of Transportation in support of the mayor's initiative. Last week de Blasio announced a major expansion of school zone speed cameras under Vision Zero. Additional privately owned and operated cameras will be deployed until the limit set by the state legislature of 140 photo radar units is reached. Additional revenue will come from expanding red light camera deployment to 150 high-volume intersections, all timed at the bare minimum 3.0 second yellow time allowed under federal law. "We're installing speed cameras in school zones citywide," de Blasio said at a news conference last week. "The last thing you want to worry about is a car speeding by and potentially endangering the lives of children. That's why this is such an important part of our Vision Zero initiative." So far this year, just twenty cameras have issued 183,000 tickets generating $9.2 million in revenue. At that rate, the full deployment of cameras would bring in $80 million in annual profit. In addition to the cameras, Vision Zero legislation lowered the city's default speed limit to 25 MPH. The city Department of Transportation created twenty-five "slow zones" and install 250 speed bumps. Traffic signals will be retimed to force drivers to hit more red lights. The new federal cash will covers thirteen specific projects including "traffic calming" items like speed bumps and the building of bicycle paths. The idea is to encourage residents to give up their cars and take other forms of transportation. "This grant will go a long way in making the city's Vision Zero initiative a reality and I thank Secretary Foxx for recognizing the need to invest in this critical effort," US Representative Joseph Crowley (D-New York) said in a statement. New York is just the start. US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx this week announced an eighteen-month campaign creating a "road diet" through which space for automobile lanes will be removed from roads around the nation so that they can be "redesigned to add space for bicycle riders and pedestrians."