Thursday, August 16, 2012
So, of interest to myself, the remainder of the Raleigh Criminal Defense community, and hopefully the general public is the news that the town of Cary has decided to remove their Red Light Cameras. For those who don't know, Red Light Cameras are cameras set up at certain intersections which are suppose to document driver's running a red light. These cameras are operated by a third party who issues tickets for the city costing the driver $50 for this infraction. There are several issues I have with the Cameras. As a Raleigh Traffic Lawyer (which is addition to being a Raleigh DWI Attorney and criminal attorney) I've become fairly familiar with these systems. In addition, while in law School and had an entire class that was devoted to me writing and advocating the a North Carolina State Supreme Court Justice a case regarding these programs. That class explored the case of Shavitz v. High Point where the plaintiff had received a red light camera ticket. He filed suit on several grounds but was ultimately successful in District Court (and was upheld in Appellate Court) by arguing that the N.C. State Constitution requires the 'clear proceeds' from these tickets is required to go to local public schools. The court determined 'clear proceeds' is everything but nominal costs associated with processing these tickets. It DID NOT include the over 70% the third party companies hired to install and enforce these programs retained from each $50 ticket. For that reason, High Point, along with other municipalities elected to end their programs. In fact, only Raleigh, Cary, Knightdale and Wilmington retained their programs, which was (arguably) permissible due to new legislation. Certainly the fact that these third parties were keeping so much money, with so little going to area public schools is disturbing. Another issue I (along with most other Raleigh Criminal Defense Attorneys) have an issue with is the fact that there is no Police oversight to these programs. The Camera catches the image and a ticket comes in the mail. The problem with this is the fact that we each enjoy a 6th Amendment Constitutional right to confront our accuser; in this case the camera. It's kind of hard to question the camera on the accuracy of it's data, or whether anything else could have impacted the results that were not the Defendant's driving. Now, there are those who would say that since the picture captures the offense, there's no need for Police oversight. But, recently it was determined that there were over 30 cases of individuals who were issued these tickets when making a legal left-hand turn at a blinking yellow light. If, instead of a camera, a Police Officer was stationed at the intersection to try and catch the same offense, he/she would have known that the Driver was not running a red light and would not have issued the ticket. Hence, the need for police oversight in these programs. Finally, I feel having a third party company issuing citations to enforce state/city law is unethical. A part of the job of local government is the enforcement of the laws. Those who are commissioned to enforce them have been trained and are held to certain standards that is necessary when dealing with accusing someone of violating a crime. Having a third party issuing these tickets, who are not government officials, and who have a financial incentive in the issuing of these tickets, is unethical. Hopefully the remaining three cities in our great State of North Carolina will follow suit and end their programs as well. Until then, should you get one of these tickets, or any other Raleigh Traffic Ticket, Raleigh DWI Charge, or Raleigh Criminal Charge, contact the Matheson Law Office today for your free consultation.