Saturday, March 21, 2009

Judge Throws Out New Carrollton Scamera Tickets

A Prince George’s County District Court has thrown out several red light tickets issued under New Carrollton’s Red Light Camera Scam after deciding that the city did not have evidence that the accused drivers had run a red light. The drivers challenged the citations after seeing that they had received a ticket stating that they had “run a red light”, while showing that they in fact were not moving. The citations said nothing about “crossing a white line” or “entering a crosswalk”.

New Carrollton Mayor Pro-Tem James Wildoner defended the practice in an interview with Fox 5 News, and said anyone who got a ticket for crossing the white line should “just pay the ticket”. Wilborner pointed out that, under transportation article 21-202, drivers are supposed to stop before the white line. HOWEVER transportation article 21-202.1 is in fact the section of maryland transporation code which permits the use of red light cameras, and it includes the following
(5) "Traffic control signal monitoring system" means a device with one or more motor vehicle sensors working in conjunction with a traffic control signal to produce recorded images of motor vehicles entering an intersection against a red signal indication.
The transportation article also states that the court is considering evidence that a vehicle "passed through the intersection". Article 21-202 also distinguishes between the intersection itself and the white line or the crosswalks. Courts accept red light camera tickets only because article 21-202.1 lowers the burden of proof on that specific offense and states that for that specific offense they are admissible without witnesses capable of exercising human judgment. Moreover neither Maryland Transportation Article 21-202 nor 21-202.1 specify any penalty entering a crosswalk of stopping past the white line.

Despite the fact that the court did not agree with his interpretation of the law, and despite the fact that they are forcing drivers to choose between getting into rear end collision or side impact collision if they want to avoid getting a ticket, the Mayor Pro-Tem Wildoner assures that the city’s practice will continue. This is no doubt in hopes that most drivers will not take the time to challenge them.

AAA has stated that they plan to file an injunction to stop the the cameras, according to the interview with Fox 5 News. In an interview with the Gazette, AAA Spokesman John Townson cited the fact that Federal Highway Safety Administration's Red Light Camera Systems Operational Guidelines specify that "the second photograph in a two-photograph red light camera system should be taken after a vehicle has entered an intersection" and said it is "malfeasance" on the part of New Carrollton's police department to run the program. A total of 15 red light citations were thrown out in one March 18th district court hearing.

These red light cameras were also vigorously defended by New Carrollton's Police Chief David Rice, who is currently under investigation by state police and the FBI over unrelated charges.

New Carrollton first proposed installing red light cameras on these roadways in February of 2000, when one city council member was quoted by the Gazette as saying "I say we move forward and investigate it to the fullest. It's a sure, good revenue source."

New Carrollton's red light cameras are currently operated by OptoTraffic, a subsidiary of Sigma Space Corporation [ref]. Sigma space retained the lobbying firm "Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver, LLC" to advocate in favor of "speed monitoring and red light system" legislation in Annapolis in 2007 and 2008, according to online ethics disclosure forms.