published Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Cities seek dismissal of red-light lawsuits

by Chris Carroll
  • photo
    Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Traffic flows past a traffic camera at the intersection of Dayton Boulevard and Signal Mountain Road in Red Bank.

A motion to dismiss lawsuits against traffic cameras argues that thousands of red-light offenders “are not entitled to a trial by jury, a presumption of innocence or a heightened burden of proof.”

The statement appears halfway through a 36-page court document seeking to stop two $10 million lawsuits against photo enforcement in Red Bank and Chattanooga.

Red Bank brought in cameras in 2006, while Chattanooga started using them in 2007.

The July 1 motion argues that a camera infraction warrants nothing more than a $50 civil penalty and therefore carries a lower standard of constitutional protection than criminal offenses.

“There are several alternative theories, any one of which could be sufficient to dispose of the case,” said Red Bank city attorney Arnold Stulce, one of the motion’s authors.

The motion contests the plaintiffs’ argument that traffic cameras unlawfully existed in the two cities before the state Legislature allowed the practice in 2008.

It argues that photo enforcement is merely another way for municipalities to enforce basic traffic law.

Chattanooga attorney Jonathan Guthrie, who represents the four plaintiffs, said he would file a response sometime before a Sept. 20 hearing in Hamilton County Chancery Court.

Tyler Geren, of Chattanooga, and Daniel Houston, of Ringgold, Ga., are the initial plaintiffs in the suit against Chattanooga. Drew Whitley, of Chattanooga, and Alicia Carico, of Lookout Mountain, Tenn., are the initial plaintiffs in the suit against Red Bank.

The plaintiffs are up against two recent Tennessee Court of Appeals decisions that denied similar complaints against Knoxville’s traffic cameras. Stulce recently referred to the Chattanooga and Red Bank complaints as “almost identical” to the Knoxville cases.

The motion stresses that the four named plaintiffs paid their traffic fines without accepting the option to “be heard” in court. It interprets those decisions as admissions of guilt and later characterizes the plaintiffs as people “literally advocating for a right not to be detected violating traffic laws.”

Since 2006, Red Bank has collected almost $2.2 million in gross revenue from its cameras and funneled more than 60 percent of it to American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona-based company that provides equipment to both cities named in the lawsuit.

That leaves $833,281 for city coffers, some of which goes toward paychecks for several city employees who operate the photo-enforcement program, records show.

Red Bank City Manager Chris Dorsey said those numbers will nullify the $10 million asked by the plaintiffs, since the city makes only a fraction of that request in gross revenue.

Chattanooga has collected $3.5 million in gross revenue from its cameras, sending $2.5 million to American Traffic Solutions and keeping a little more than $1 million, officials said.

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MountainJoe said...

A motion to dismiss lawsuits against traffic cameras argues that thousands of red-light offenders "are not entitled to a trial by jury, a presumption of innocence or a heightened burden of proof."

Well ex-cuuuuuuse me! Didn't this used to be America?

What a crock of sht. We are Americans. We are d*n sure entitled to a trial by jury, presumption of innocence, due process of law, and the right to confront our accuser in open court. None of which is protected by these fascist cameras.

Just don't pay the d**n ticket, people. Pretend you never saw it. They don't send it registered mail so they have no proof you ever received it. That is what happened in Arizona, and the cameras came down. Massive civil disobedience is the simplest way to win.

July 28, 2010 at 12:32 a.m.
harrystatel said...

Where's the paintball guns? Start blasting away at "Big Brother's Money Machine".

A carload of citizens could do sneak attacks and make them inoperable. Put those Ninja outfits on, grab your paintball guns, and fire away.

Enough is enough. It's time for civil disobedience. This is a good place to start.

July 28, 2010 at 8:12 a.m.
alohaboy said...

I think they do a good job and it was proven, at least in Cleveland, to reduce accidents at 4 out of 5 locations.

July 28, 2010 at 8:45 a.m.
princehal said...

I recall an incident a few years back in which a man in Knoxville got out at intersection and shot one of those revenue generators. We should laud him and adorn his head with laurels.

If that link doesn't work, just do a Google search

July 28, 2010 at 9:20 a.m.
UU4Life said...

What good does it do to exercise your legal right and go to court? You never win anyway. The judge almost always sides with law enforcement. This is just more tyranny piled on top of the stupid seat belt law and taking certain LEGAL drugs off the market. Wake Up America!!! We are headed down a Hitler-Like path and it will not stop unless WE STOP IT! I agree with the person who suggested massive civil disobedience. That is the only thing that will get their attention.

July 28, 2010 at 10:25 a.m.
yogilives said...

The lengths people are willing to go to in order to avoid being held responsible for their reckless behavior amazes me. You don't hear non-smokers complain about cigarette taxes so why should we believe these whiners are anything but reckless drivers who don't want to get caught? Camera enforcement gives coverage no number of street cops can match and are much more reliable and efficient, that means more deterrence and thus few collisions, injuries and deaths - which is the whole point in having traffic laws in the first place!

July 28, 2010 at 2:52 p.m.
William18 said...

I hope that the cities are successful in defending the suits. With nearly 1,000 deaths and 150,000 injuries nationally each year as the result of red light running, camera enforcement is a valuable pro-safety tools that has been shown time after time to reduce red light running and intersection collisions.

July 28, 2010 at 3:16 p.m.
BOOBOO99 said...

If you dont agree with the cameras and if you get a ticket in mail dont pay it.....Simple!!! These cameras are money pits..

July 28, 2010 at 5:18 p.m.
cleanfreak29 said...

people are talking about how the cameras are not fair. they catch you and then provide PROOF of the infraction. visual proof people in either picture or video form. stop trying to find loopholes and just agree to drive responsibly it isn't that difficult

July 28, 2010 at 6:10 p.m.
VOL1972 said...

Cameras are a tool for police to use to help keep streets safe. I doubt that there's some sinister method, considering how effective the cameras have been shown to reduce deadly accidents. I'd rather have them keeping the streets safe, than not have them at all.

July 29, 2010 at 4:33 p.m.
FreeinTX said...

Every major study ever done on this issue have shown that traffic cameras INCREASE accidents!!! Search, "Red Light Cameras Cause Accidents."

Normally, a person who runs the red light does so when he sees the yellow and tries to run that yellow, gets the red, but runs the red light anyway. We have all see many instances where more than one car will do this at a light at one time or another.

EVERY SINGLE MAJOR STUDY SHOWS that when you put a traffic light camera up, while you increase revenues for the municipality who put them there, and increase revenues for the company that ILLEGALLY (ruled ILLEGAL by a Travis County Court House, at least) operates them, you also increase the number of times a car that is trying to run a yellow light, gets the red, slams on his brakes, and gets rear-ended by the guy behind him who was trying to make it through, also. This increase in rear-enders FAR EXCEED the numbers posted by accidents caused by running red lights.

Most drivers are aware enough to look before proceeding, and drivers that will blow through a red in the middle of it being red are probably too drunk to care about the red light camera anyway! However, people slamming on their brakes to avoid a possible ticket do cause accidents that are avoidable by just taking the cameras OUT.

When enforcement becomes more about revenue generation than public safety, as demonstrated by EVERY MAJOR STUDY DONE ON THE ISSUE, then it is ILLEGAL, IMMORAL, and certainly UNCONSTIUTIONAL!!! We are NOT their milk cows!

July 30, 2010 at 1:04 p.m.
bugaboo2 said...

Laws are made to be followed. If you break the law you should have to pay the fine.

July 30, 2010 at 4:27 p.m.
harrystatel said...

Here's a compromise. Leave the red-light cameras in place if citizens can put BS cameras in the Mayor's Office and City Council offices.

Charge the Mayor and City Council $50.00 every time they start talking BS. It would take less than two weeks to raise $13 million dollars for the TVA parking garage.

With the current administration, citizens would get rebates from property taxes.

How about it Ronnie? Mayor Glasscock?

July 30, 2010 at 4:56 p.m.
Volsrunwild said...

Its funny you don't hear the public outrage over parking tickets and its the same procedure essentially.

July 30, 2010 at 9:04 p.m.
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