Monday, February 27, 2012

Legislation Needed to Address Due Process Violations and Camera Accuracy

StopBigBrotherMD has now been reporting on speed cameras in Maryland for 4 years.  We have documented numerous violations of due process and basic constitutional rights, as well as the outrageous conflicts of interest which exist in the system.  We have also documented numerous errors by speed cameras. We are sad to say that the legal rights of drivers are more under siege today than at any point in the past.

However there is some hope.  Sixteen state Delegates have sponsored legislation ( House Bill 1044 ) which would address some of the worst violations which have taken place.  The extremely reasonable provisions of HB1044 include the following:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

State Delegate Takes on TSA Searches

Several state delegates have proposed legislation which would challenge the power of the TSA to conduct invasive searches at state owned airports, in response to concerns that the searches are unconstitutional and overly intrusive.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

State Lawmakers Don't Read Own Legislation

Two sponsors of legislation removing the requirement that police review speed camera citations before they are issued have claimed that it would not permit citation reviews to instead be done by private, for-profit contractors, even though both the Policy Notes and a straight reading of the bill's text clearly show that this would be the case.

The legislation, named Senate Bill 486 and House Bill 944 was heard before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Tuesday Feb 21.  The editor of StopBigBrotherMD.org testified that the bill would be a disaster for motorist rights, on the grounds that it would remove an important safeguard meant to protect the innocent.  We argued that it would allow the final say in who receives citations to be made by private contractors.  This would not only increase the chance of erroneous tickets (something this website has documented NUMEROUS examples of), but also remove accountability by local governments, and place records about citation review outside the scope of the state's open records laws (the MPIA).  In the worse case scenario, the contractor might be paid based on the number of tickets issued (the same way most local speed cameras contractors in the state are currently paid).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Maryland Police Photograph Thousands of Cars Daily

Police in Montgomery County and elsewhere in the state have established a massive network of surveillance cameras and automated license plate readers which photograph and record data about thousands of motorists daily, most of which have committed no violation. The fact that the systems are under no oversight or regulation from the state has attracted concern from some civil liberties groups.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Motorist: Baltimore City Cameras Commit "Highway Robbery"

A motorist wrote the following in a letter to the editor to the Baltimore Sun, complaining that the city's Red Light Camera System :issued him an illegitimate citation, and that he was unable to get a court date to contest it:
Some time ago I received a citation from Baltimore's Department of Finance, Bureau of Revenue Collections demanding $75 for committing an illegal turn on red at a city intersection.

However, turning on red is perfectly legal at that intersection, and the photograph on the citation shows my vehicle not even yet in the intersection, with the brake light on to boot. It was in fact stopped. Only then was the legal turn on red completed.

I tried to obtain a court date and exercise my right to contest the charge, but at that point the fun was only starting. The phone number listed to secure a court date, is — surprise — never answered. The Baltimore city website did not even list the citation number. In the meantime, I received a stern, follow-up warning that if I didn't pay by a certain date, the fine would increase to $100 and eventually the vehicle's registration would be jeopardized.


I kept at it, however, and called the Maryland District Court, and was given the name of an actual human being at the Department of Finance that I could talk to. The person there advised me that I might get an court date in four to six months, and that it would probably take place before my auto registration was suspended for non-payment. As for the warning notices, I was advised to ignore them. I still don't have a court date.

But the story doesn't end there. My wife, who works at a high school nearby, has observed other cars stop at the same the red light, have their picture taken by the camera, and then go on to complete what the drivers think is a perfectly legal turn. 
Read More in the Baltimore Sun

Thursday, February 9, 2012

2012 Legislative Summary

A number of bills related to photo enforcement have been introduced for consideration by the 2012 General Assembly.  Here is our summary of legislation introduced so far.

Monday, February 6, 2012

SafeZones Speed Cameras "Nail the Innocent Too"

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Baltimore Sun:
It seems everyone has a speed camera story, and here is mine. Just after Christmas I received a citation from Maryland Safe Zones Automated Speed Enforcement in the mail. It was not my car; I was not in the place at the time specified, and the picture of the license plate was virtually unreadable. I was offered the option of paying $40 or asking for a court date. I chose the latter and received a letter a couple of weeks later stating that I needed to appear in District Court in Towson at 9 a.m. on Jan. 31.

Fortunately, I appeared before a judge who was full of good humor, compassion and common sense. After my name was called and I walked to the front of the courtroom, I was asked if it was my car in the picture. I replied in the negative. Next, the judge looked at the citation and without hesitation said, "Case dismissed. I cannot read this license plate. Not guilty." All of that took about 30 seconds, and I didn't need to present evidence in my defense. Interestingly enough, the same thing happened to the man who was called before me.

To dispute this inaccurate citation, I had to drive 54 miles in morning traffic, which took me 90 minutes of drive time, and pay a $5 parking fee, not to mention the cost of gas and missing time off from work.
 Read More