Red light camera tickets are a hot button issue across the country. I can tell you specifically in South Florida the Courts have been back and forth on the issue…until now. The 4th District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida recently issued an Order challenging the issuing of the tickets as unconstitutional per the Florida Statutes and Florida Constitution. This well thought out holding may be key to knocking out these types of cases in many other jurisdiction.
In order to understand the Court’s holding in City of Hollywood v. Arem, we must understand how this system works. Municipalities or counties outsource to a third party, for-profit vendor, the right to issue traffic citations for those who run red lights. Cameras are placed at intersections and record traffic patterns. When a vehicle enters a red light a picture is taken of the vehicle’s registration. Often times a video of the violation is taken. Then the third party vendor, in this case it is American Traffic Solutions, reviews the video, issues a “notice of violation” and sends the notice to the registered owner of the vehicle. If the owner of the vehicle does not pay the “notice of violation” within the specified time period, the third party vendor creates a citation for the municipality’s traffic infraction enforcement officer to sign. At that time the owner, whether driving or not, is issued a Uniform Traffic Citation subjecting them to points, fines, and court costs.
In Arem, the court raised three key issues:
- Does Florida Statute authorize a municipality to delegate a private vendor to issue Uniform Traffic Citations?
- Does Florida permit a traffic infraction officer to delegate a non-governmental entity the statutory duty to transmit the citation to court?
- If the answer is in the negative, is dismissal appropriate.
The 4th DCA, addressed issue number one and held No, Florida Statutes does not authorize a municipality to delegate a third party for profit vendor to issue a Uniform Traffic Citation. The 4th looked to the plain meaning of the statutes and stated “only law enforcement officers and traffic enforcement officers have the legal authority to issue citations…” While Florida statutes do allow cities to delegate the review of information, they don’t have authority to issue the citations. The court looked at America Traffic Solutions found that they: initially decide which cases to review, they obtain the necessary information to complete the citation, they create the citation, and issue the citation. The traffic infraction enforcement officer for the municipality only “acquiesces to the vendor’s decision to issue the citation.” As such, they answered the first question in the negative.
Holding that the cities do not have the authority, they answered question three by stating Dismissal of the infraction is appropriate. Having ruled as such they did not address the second question.
I believe this ruling, spells out to other jurisdictions that these vendors are not just being delegated the duty to review the camera footage. They are actually acting as a law enforcement agency, which I am sure in many jurisdiction is a violation of local statutes, ordinances, or local constitutions.
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