Wednesday, June 8, 2011

When to Fight a Speed Camera Ticket

ABCNews 7 did a story on ticket challenges, noting that many some speed camera tickets go unchallenged. They relate the story of the recipient of one ticket issued by DC:

"Tony Rodriguez got a speed camera ticket he should have challenged. For starters, the ticket information is incorrect.
The plate picture starts with H-9. But it was recorded as H-8. The ticket states the vehicle is a Chevy. But it’s a Mercury. And the car in the picture is a District cab. But Rodriguez’ taxi was a Diamond cab, which have diamond-shaped lights on the roof. That’s not what’s in the picture.
He also said he sold the cab years ago.
“I opened up the mail, I looked at it and started laughing,” he said." Rodriguez missed the date to challenge his ticket, however MPD did finally void the ticket.... after ABCNews 7 contacted them about it.

Unfortunately the press cannot chase down every camera error n every jurisdiction.  StopBigBrotherMD frequently hears from the recipients of erroneous speed camera tickets, and we've previously reported on cases of incorrect identification of vehicles issued by Baltimore and Brentwood. Sadly MANY of those tickets are never challenged. We've received reports from drivers with credible proof of errors in tickets issued by Forest Heights, Riverdale Park, and College Park where the drivers ultimately paid the ticket, either deciding it was not cost effective to do so or in some cases stating they feared reprisals. In fact many of the drivers who have gone to the trouble of challenging tickets issued by PG County municipalities and other areas have been successful, due to a variety of problems with those town's camera programs.

However the worst case continues to be the town of Forest Heights, where not only have there been a substantial number of drivers who have reported erroneous speed readings, but many who WANTED to challenge tickets have been unable to do so. One driver with credible proof of an error has been waiting since September 2010 for a hearing date, and has been receiving late notices threatening to suspend his registration and imposing additional fines even though he has requested a hearing several times. That town's contractor, Optotraffic, is responsible for scheduling hearings with the district court, and in some cases drivers have been waiting over a year for hearing dates. Additionally, the town of Forest Heights has either denied or stalled in responding to requests under the Maryland Public Information Act, or in a few instances agreeing to release public records only if relevant data was first removed from the documents. This has been done to request both by ticket recipients and by this website, denying the public information about ticket errors, denying defendants evidence they are entitled to have for their defense, and oh by the way also flouting the state's open records laws.  Forest Height and Optraffic will NEVER admit to an error, because they both have ENORMOUS financial stakes, and the only solutions to this would be refunding millions of dollars worth of tickets.  Allowing full access to public records would run the risk of laying bare the truth of their program's numerous technical and procedural errors. 

Sadly, the state of Maryland appears to be content to let things like what is happening with Forest Heights and Optotraffic slide. Not surprising because the state expects to receive receiving a cut of the ticket revenue from Forest Heights and several other Maryland towns whose revenue exceeds a certain percentage of their budget. If Forest Heights had to refund a substantial number of tickets, the state of Maryland would get nothing.  Maryland officials should please feel free to prove us wrong by conducting a serious, transparent, and genuinely independent investigation.