Sunday, January 27, 2013

Red Light Citations With False Signatures Not Voided

In February 2011, WBAL TV reported that a deceased police officer "signed" over 2000 red light camera tickets issued by the city of Baltimore.  The signatures on the citations were clearly false, since it would have been physically impossible for this officer to have signed the citations.  Indeed, had an ordinary citizen signed the name of a police officer on an official document, it would be considered forgery, which would be illegal even if there were no requirement in the law that red light camera tickets be signed.   However an email released by the City shows that as of August 24, 2012 -- 18 months after the incident was publicized  -- Baltimore City had not chosen to make the situation right by voiding the falsified citations.

"Do we have any information on the number of voided citations [if any] on this incident. " wrote a city employee Francis Udenta to Xerox Corp representative Donovan Wilson on August 24, referencing the story.
"Zero" replied Donovan.
"Zero.... meaning no voids were issued?" asked Udenta
"Correct" responded Donovan.

Right now Baltimore City is in the process of reassuring the public that they are setting right the matter of hundreds of erroneous citations systematically issued to innocent motorists by faulty speed cameras (including a speeding citation issued to a completely motionless car).  And it is possible they will fully do so in this high profile instance... now that their speed camera program is the recipient of so much pressure from the press and the public.

However it has certainly not always been the policy of local governments to make matters right by refunding false photo tickets.  Indeed there are other local governments (such as the town of Forest Height) have vigorously refused to acknowledge any errors even in the face of massive evidence.  And other local governments (such as Riverdale Park -- and their contractor Optotraffic) refuse to come clean with the public in cases where signatures on citations were falsified.  Indeed some local governments such as Brentwood won't even comply with their legal obligation to respond to Public Information Act Requests about errors, and so how can anyone say they have come clean?  So long as there is no accountability and it is left to each individual local government to decide for themselves whether to comply with the law or deal fairly with those who have been accused by photo enforcement under false circumstances, the burden of proof in Maryland will continue to be on the accused.