Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Court Tosses Cops' Scamera Tickets

The Washington Examiner has reported that four on-duty Montgomery County police officers caught by Montgomery County speed cameras had their $40 tickets thrown out by a county judge.

Circuit Court Judge Ronald Rubin ruled the officers' right to due process had been violated, because the county police department does not have a written policy that outlines when on-duty officers would be exempted from getting tickets from speed cameras.

"How are they going to recall that it wasn't because they were speeding to stop a kid from running in the street chasing a ball," attorney James Shalleck asked.

After his ruling, Judge Rubin was quoted as saying : "That's what this statute is: This is a revenue raiser, it is a tax machine."

"They're afforded more due process than the average citizen," the Examiner quotes Assistant State's Attorney Teresa Casafranca.

Three of the officers in the case did not give a reason for speeding. One officer told supervisors that he was driving to training, according to court records.

Capt. John Damskey, who heads the traffic division that operates speed cameras, said the police department may appeal the case.

Read the Complete Story in the Washington Examiner.
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This is nowhere near the first case where government vehicles or employees have received speed camera tickets. In March 2008, the Washington Post reported that there had been 224 instances when county police vehicles had been ticketed by speed cameras. At that time 148 officers were refusing to pay under instructions from their union, whose position was that since the county owns the vehicles the tickets were the county's responsibility. That same article reported that County Executive Ike Leggett had gotten a speed camera ticket himself, although he stated that he had paid the citation.

DC.CameraFRAUD.Com reported that Mayor Fenty's city owned "smartcar" was issued a speed camera ticket for going "11-15mph" over the limit. The ticket was discovered by a reporter from the Washington City Paper in May 2009, who ran the Mayor's plates through an online database. The city confirmed that the mayor had been driving at the time. The article in the City Paper indicated the mayor had not received the ticket yet, possibly because it had been sent to the city who owns the vehicle instead of to Fenty himself. Fenty stated that he would pay the citation... after being questioned about it by the media. Fenty is a champion of DC's speed and red light camera program, even though it has been documented that his motorcade frequently speeds through red lights, including when he is on his way to political fundraisers, and that his wife is given the same treatment.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Baltimore Writes Speed Camera Revenues into Budget

The city of Baltimore is so confident that their new speed camera program will be a money maker that they have written a quota of $7.1million in net revenue for the program into their proposed FY2010 budget. This is despite the fact that the program is not even permitted to be implemented until October 1, 2009 and the cameras have not even been purchased yet. It is also unlikely that traffic surveys been conducted or the number and placement of cameras "needed" in the city has been determined yet.

Montgomery County's Speed Camera program took close to a year before it began to generate net revenue. Now that the program is well established however, Montgomery County has written over $15million in net revenues into its FY10 budget and is in the process of doubling its number of cameras to meet that goal.

The Maryland state legislature recognized the conflict of interest posed by quotas by passing article 2-504 to ban ticket quotas "both formal and informal" for individual police officers. However writing proposed future revenues into city and county budgets for a program which has not even been started yet is apparently fair play, even though decisions about how the program will be run and where cameras will be placed may end up being set to meet a revenue goal rather than a safety-based goal.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Anti-Speed Camera Efforts Move to Counties

The group Maryland For Responsible Enforcement is regrouping to fight speed cameras county-by-county. The effort to force the recently passed Senate Bill 277, authorizing statewide speed cameras, was unsuccessful because under Maryland's extremely stringent rules it was necessary to collect a very large number of signatures within a very short period of time after the passage of the new law. However SB277 still requires each county to pass local legislation authorizing the use of speed cameras in each individual county. This opens up the possibility to stop that local legislation from passing. There will also be efforts to force the cameras to referendums at a county level, which requires fewer signatures (5,000 vs 54,000) and does not have the extremely strict time constraints. No speed camera program in the US has ever survived after being successfully forced to a popular referendum. However MRE needs volunteers to get organized for this effort now. Please visit the MRE Website and contact them if you wish to help.