Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Lawmaker Proposes Expanding Camera Enforcement Hours

Delegate Davis
A Prince George's County Delegate has proposed legislation which would remove restrictions on the times when speed cameras can operate and raise the cost of citations which are paid late.

The bill listed on the Prince George's County Delegation website as PG 302-14-1 was proposed by Delegate Dereck Davis (D, District 25)  would exempt all speed cameras located in Prince George's County from an existing requirement that speed cameras located in "school zones" only operate Monday-Friday 8am-8pm.  The bill, as worded, would appear to not only include cameras run by the county, but also those run by municipalities within the county.  Thus speed camera programs such as those run by Forest Heights, the Town of Morningside, Riverdale Park, and College Park, where we have documented repeated complaints from motorists regarding a variety of issues, and which already collect sizable portions of their budgets from camera fines, would also be permitted to issue tickets 24/7 including weekends.

We previously documented how many municipalities in Prince George's County had created new school zones or greatly expanded them in locations not previously marked as school zones, solely for the purpose of deploying speed cameras in those locations.

Montgomery County previously found that when a few of its speed cameras had to be placed under the M-F 6am-8pm restriction, those cameras produced about 40% less revenue.

The bill also states "In addition to any other costs imposed under this section, the county or municipality may charge a late fee to a person who pays the fine after the deadline specified in the citation".  The bill does not appear to contain any provision stating how long the deadline must be, or what the amount of the late fee would be.  This portion of the bill does not appear to be restricted to Prince George's County.

Most jurisdictions previously had late fees for speed and red light camera tickets, even though there was no authorization for this was written into state law.  Each jurisdiction set their own standard for the amount of the late fee and the amount of time people had to pay.  But in 2012 the district court ruled that because jurisdictions were all specifying different rules and rates for late fees this violated the equal protection clause of the Maryland constitution, and most jurisdictions stopped collecting the fees.  The revenue can be fairly substantial: Montgomery County, for example, had previously collected up to $1.8million per year in late fees for speed and red light cameras.   No refunds were ever issued for illegally collected late fees.

Additional Coverage:
Gazette: Speed cameras hours may expand to 24/7 coverage in Prince George’s

UPDATE 1/25/2014: Apparently received some unfavorable reviews for his proposal.  According to the GazetteDelegate Davis has stated he now WITHDRAWN his original bill, and has stated he will instead sponsor a bill doing the exact opposite.  The new bill would instead limit speed cameras to only school days, rather than allowing them to operate on weekdays when school is closed for holidays.