Fighting back against red light camera traffic ticket in D.C. can prove challenging. It's essentially your word against the snapshot on the camera.
But our D.C. traffic defense attorneys know that the reality is, most of them aren't challenged because most people mistakenly believe they have zero chance. The $21 million the district raked in just in February as evidence of how few people even bother.
However, a recent ruling made by an Ohio judge regarding the controversial devices has set an interesting precedent that could potentially influence the way future challenges are approached in other areas.
In a small village of Elmwood Place, just outside of Cincinnati, a judge ruled that the speed camera ordinance there amounted to a constitutional violation. Specifically, he ruled, the cameras were an infringement on the 5th Amendment right to due process. His reasoning was that defendants in these cases are not given the chance to contest the maintenance of the cameras or their effectiveness.
Although the speed camera program has been controversial, challenges of violations have been spotty throughout the country. What this case shows is that it is possible to successfully challenge them, even here in the Washington area.
Since the District's fiscal year began in October, the city has pulled in nearly $50 million from traffic camera enforcement operations. That is a nearly 70 percent increase from the amount collected by this time last year, when nearly $30 million had been collected.
In January, the cameras had raked in about $26 million - 113 percent more than the $12 million received from the program in January 2012.
Officials say public safety is the main goal, but clearly, the city has a clear profitable interest in keeping these cameras operational.
A few proposals by council earlier this year would reportedly reduce the chances that a person would get a ticket. For example, one councilman has proposed that the yellow traffic signals match the recognized national standard for length, so as to ensure the district isn't manipulating the signals just to generate revenue.
Given the amount the district is collecting each month, there is little confidence that that isn't already happening.
In the Ohio ruling, the judge called the cameras a scam that drivers can't win because the case tends to be stacked against the defendant.
However, in Maryland recently, an attorney who was representing himself in a speed camera ticket case argued that the police couldn't put a camera too far from a residential zone. He was successful, and later told a reporter he believed everyone should be challenging these cases in court.
So do we.
It's worth noting that a Metropolitan Police Sergeant, who had previously tried to convince traffic officials to rescind some 100,000 speed citations he said weren't valid because the speed cameras weren't reliable, was successful in challenging his own case in court. In that case, the hearing officer agreed that the speed limit was improperly enforced near the Third Street Tunnel. The matter was being referred for a review by the Department of Motor Vehicles to determine whether thousands of tickets should be rescinded.