Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Delegate Al Carr Wants Photo Tickets for "Vehicle Presence"

Delegate Al Carr(D, Montgomery County), is seeking to create a brand new type of photo enforcement which will issue citations for the mere presence of a vehicle.

You have probably already heard of "Speed Monitoring Systems" (more commonly called "Speed Cameras") and "Traffic Control Signal Monitoring System" (more commonly called Red light cameras).   House Bill 947 would allow local jurisdictions to deploy a new network of devices called (we are NOT making this up) "Vehicle PRESENCE Monitoring Systems".  Those devices are more commonly called.... NOTHING... because most people who don't stand to profit from photo enforcement would never even have thought an idea like this could exist or that it was even vaguely necessary.

The devices would be used to enforce "a state or local law restricting the presence of certain motor vehicles".  The legislation does not state WHICH state or local laws, or what "CERTAIN" motor vehicles means, or where this would apply, leaving it wide open to any such restriction any local jurisdiction might choose to create.  Would it be all vehicles?  Trucks?  Blue cars?  SUVs?  We have NO IDEA!  And there is no way that any of the lawmakers who would vote on this could possibly know either, because as written this could be ANY vehicle restriction which ANY local municipality comes up with at any time in the future.

Were a local government to misuse this legislation in some what, such as coming up with a restriction that motorists would not understand, that would be just tough on you.  The adjudication would be done in the same manner as speed camera citations, which is to say you won't stand a chance because the burden of proof has been explicitly lowered and dozens of cases might be assigned to a single judge in a 1-2 hour court session in assembly line fashion.  Citations would be issued to the owner, not the driver, and the only defense explicitly permitted under the statute is if you can prove your car is stolen.  The legislation states that citations can be mailed as much as 30 days after the violation, meaning a person could run up 29 more violations after the first one before even realizing the local restriction was in place.  Or they might get issued two citations in a row when the proceed down a street, realize there's a restriction, and then too late turn around.

There's no specific requirement in HB0947 that the local vehicle restrictions make any rational sense, or that it be related to any particular safety consideration.  The legislation does not even state whether the vehicles need to be moving.

An example of how deceptively written this legislation is can be seen in a portion of the bill which states "If a contractor operates a vehicle presence monitoring system on behalf of a local jurisdiction, the contractor's fee may not be contingent on the number of citations issued or paid."  This is intended to give the false impression of preventing any conflict of interest on the part of the vendor by not paying them per ticket.  In fact, this exact language was included in Maryland's original speed camera law, and almost every speed camera program in the state effectively circumvented that language simply by not using the word "operate" to describe what contractors do (even though they basically controlled the entire program and the hardware).  Of course Delegate Carr would absolutely have known this fact, and yet he deliberately included that specific wording in the bill just because he figured the public was too stupid to realize this.

It is more important to stop the bad laws from getting passed than to try to pass the good ones!   

The legislation is scheduled for a hearing before the Environment and Transportation Committee.
The members of that committee are:

Full Text of HB947

Update 2/26/17: Delegate Carr has withdrawn his "Vehicle Presence Monitoring System" bill after receiving negative feedback.  Good work!