published Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Traffic camera lawsuit dismissed


by Chris Carroll

Traffic camera fighters suffered another blow in their war against surveillance Monday when a judge dismissed a lawsuit demanding refunds for thousands of red-light tickets in Knoxville.

Partly based on two recent Tennessee Court of Appeals decisions, Monday’s ruling represents the latest setback in a year that’s seen judges and politicians reluctant to surrender traffic cameras as a means of enforcement for basic traffic laws, including speeding and various red-light offenses.

“I hope it’s clear around the state that this is a legitimate thing that cities can do and that lawyers will read the relevant cases before shooting off lawsuits that don’t have any merit,” said Michael Kelley, a Knoxville attorney who defended Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., the operator of the Knoxville system.

Two almost-identical $10 million lawsuits against photo enforcement in the cities of Chattanooga and Red Bank now face their own joint motion to dismiss on Sept. 20 in Hamilton County Chancery Court.

Adam Priest, an attorney who represented plaintiffs in Knoxville and who plans to argue for plaintiffs fighting Chattanooga and Red Bank, declined to comment, citing the upcoming hearing.

In each of the cases, clients are seeking refunds of all penalties and late fees associated with red-light tickets for all people cited. They contend that the state Legislature didn’t formally legalize traffic cameras until after the cities began using them.

But Knoxville, Chattanooga and Red Bank each argue that the cities didn’t need state approval to use another method to enforce basic traffic laws.

Red Bank installed cameras in 2006; Chattanooga started using them a year later, and both governments don’t appear to be changing course anytime soon.

In the face of at least one resident who called the police tools “candid cameras,” Red Bank commissioners voted 4-1 in February to extend a contract for 12 years with American Traffic Solutions, the city’s camera company.

Vice Mayor Monty Millard provided the lone dissenting voice in that vote.

“I’m all about safety, but we’ve gotten nothing but negative publicity about this,” he said at the time.

In January, Chattanooga officials, including Mayor Ron Littlefield, showcased their traffic-camera program to several state lawmakers in a successful effort to stall a statewide traffic camera moratorium.

A dismissal of the lawsuit would be a welcome event in Red Bank, which has been sued five times in the last four months.

The $10 million traffic camera lawsuit almost doubles the city’s $5.1 million annual budget.

“That’s one less potential liability for the city, which would be good for our citizens,” Red Bank City Manager Chris Dorsey said. “I would breathe a little easier.”

Contact Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6610.

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sunnydelight said...

Juat simply ignore the ticket , don't go to court, do not respond .Unless it is placed in your hand by a person or sent registered mail, no one can prove you have been notified. When the money stops the cameras will disappear.

September 16, 2010 at 5:01 a.m.
DEB said...

When it cost the city and state more to have these cameras then they make they will stop using them. Resist by any legal means any effort to raise state, county and city taxes. Vote anyone out of any office who is for this type of big brother surveilance. Keep suing and keep fighting against this unprecedented, unconsitutional invasion of privacy and God bless America.

September 16, 2010 at 6:02 a.m.
harrystatel said...

Jury Nullification—Not Guilty Because It's A Stupid Law, Your Honor!

Jury nullification strikes terror into the hearts and minds of state and federal prosecutors, district attorneys, and judges. While the issue can be complicated, let me simplify it.

If you serve on a criminal jury, deciding the guilt or innocence of an accused person, you can decide to judge the law. That's right! You can determine for yourself whether the law is valid or not. If you decide the law is stupid, insane, unconstitutional, arbitrary, racially motivated, unethical, or invalid on its face, you can choose to vote 'Not Guilty".

It's time that citizens begin to use this honored tradition of individual conscience and remove the yoke of government injustice.

Here's how it works and how you can use it. . . http://wp.me/p10KwY-hP

Harry Statel http://harrystatel.wordpress.com

September 16, 2010 at 8:01 a.m.
MountainJoe said...

Good point sunnyd. If they do not use a human process server to deliver the ticket, or send it registered mail so that they have a receipt for delivery, then you have not been properly served and you can indeed ignore it. After all, USPS loses mail all the time. For that matter, even if they bothered to properly serve you, you can treat it the same as a parking ticket since it is not a moving violation. (If it were, they would have to actually give you due process of law, which they don't do.) Thousands of people have ignored parking tickets from the city of Chattanooga and not a thing has happened to them so far.

September 16, 2010 at 8:03 a.m.
MountainJoe said...

Massive civil disobedience would bring the cameras down pronto. Everyone just "forget" to pay and when the revenue stream dries up, the cameras will come down in Chattanooga and Red Bank just as they did in Dalton.

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2009/apr/07/dalton-pulls-plug-red-light-cameras/

September 16, 2010 at 8:08 a.m.
Musicman375 said...

It is also illegal for you to be criminally cited for a supposed offense when there wasn't an officer of the law present to witness it. The city of Red Bank sends out their invoices as just that, invoices on 8 1/2 X 11 letterhead. That is not the same as a citation. They also are not allowed to turn you over to collections for not paying the civil fee. There is absolutely nothing they can legally do to you for not paying the ticket. Even if it is delivered via certified mail, they cannot cite you as a criminal.

September 16, 2010 at 8:26 a.m.

Don't speed or run red lights and you won't be ticketed. Don't place items in your pocketbook at Wal-Mart. Don't drive-off unpaid at a gas station. Don't hold-up a bank teller. Don't be underage after curfew at Coolidge Park. Why are these so difficult for some people to understand?

And don't listen to "comment page lawyers" like sunnyd above. Sunnyd probably owns a collection agency working for local government. They WILL come after you for unpaid tickets.

September 16, 2010 at 8:48 a.m.
harrystatel said...

Maybe a "Night of Target the Traffic Cameras?" Paintball guns, covered license plates, Johnny Cash black clothes, no set day or time,etc.

Why TP someone's house when Big Bucks and his Gotcha Cameras are out there?

No one gets hurt (except Big Bucks' pockets),no firearms are used, no traffic lights are damaged, no citizen's property is stolen, just sticking it to Big Brother and his Big Buck friends.

A good lesson from Ghandi and Thoreau on resistance. How's that for a little civil disobedience?

Harry Statel http://harrystatel.wordpress.com

September 16, 2010 at 9:05 a.m.
Musicman375 said...

Not camera violations, bookie. I have spoken with a Red Bank police officer who confirmed that they are not allowed to turn those over to collections. It's illegal for them to do so.

Having said that, I have never had my picture taken by any traffic cameras. Some of us don't appreciate the fact that they do not follow the due process of the law. As MountainJoe has pointed out so often, you are presumed guilty until provent innocent with these "tickets."

September 16, 2010 at 9:23 a.m.
whatever said...

What, they don't have somebody whose responsibility it is to look over the photos and screen out ones in doubt?

I could understand disagreements about the screening, but I would think they'd have somebody doing it.

And I don't know what police officer you talked to, but I can't find anybody confirming it elsewhere.

September 16, 2010 at 10:13 a.m.
harrystatel said...

I've been told by the law firm of Skrewum & Gigum that my satiric post could be misconstrued as advocating criminal actions against helpless traffic cameras.

Let me now state that traffic cameras are protected under the Big Brother Act of 2002 (Patriot Act). The Department of Homeland Security Act takes any thoughts, words, or actions seriously to prevent attacks by terrorists who hate us for our traffic cameras.

Therefore,do not attempt to disrupt the DHS surveillance of citizens and the revenue stream flowing into the hands of politicians under the guise of "We Know Best."

Please, always co-operate with Big Brother and Uncle Sugar because they say so.

Harry Statel http://harrystatel.wordpress.com

September 16, 2010 at 10:20 a.m.
whatever said...

Actually I'd rather you just not advocate violence and the destruction of property so casually.

If you want the traffic cameras removed, there are legal options you can pursue. Put a ballot initiative in front of people, they'll sign a petition to ban them.

September 16, 2010 at 10:26 a.m.
Obie1 said...

The anger expressed by many of the responders is why we need the cameras. It is that same lack of emotional control that is found in aggressive and dangerous driving. Only a person who resents any restriction on their personal driving behavior would make such inane statements. The results speak for themselves – when cameras go up; accidents go down. That’s why they are supported by every governmental organization involved with traffic safety. If you are a safe driver and don't break the law, no problem and no bucks from you.

September 16, 2010 at 10:29 a.m.
Musicman375 said...

I'm not giving you his name because I haven't asked him for his permission to do so. I will tell you though, that in addition to working for Red Bank, he also sits in speed vans for Chattanooga. He knows all about camera citations. If an officer of the law is present to witness the event, you may be charged criminally, such as with the vans. (I somewhat disagree with that rule as well since most people cannot positively identify the driver as the owner.) If not present to witness it, then they can only send you a civil invoice as a fee which they cannot pursue you on if you ignore it. If you are cited criminally, that is a different story. The stationary cameras do not allow you to defend yourself before you are required to pay for the offense, even if you weren't driving at the time. So again, they circumvent due process.

September 16, 2010 at 11:06 a.m.
rolando said...

Is anyone really surprised at the judge's ruling? Allowing the lawsuit would limit the government's power over every little facet of our lives and we can't have that now, can we?

I haven't had a traffic ticket or a "citation" in over 30 years. 'Course I don't run red lights and I stop completely before turning right on a red one. Even so, I object to ANYONE indiscriminately keeping track of someone's movements as part of a "fishing expedition" -- hoping they might catch someone doing something they think is wrong. THAT, my friends, is Big-Brotherism and thought-control run rampant.


In addition to Jury Nullification, another little-know power the people have is in the Grand Jury. A sitting Grand Jury can demand almost anything from the judge, prosecution, and anyone else during the prosecution of a felony. Judges and AGs will NEVER tell a Jury of that power they have; and they fear that knowledge to their very soles.

Instead, they give the JURY orders as to what they can and cannot do, ask about, or anything they do not want them to know.

So if you are on a Grand Jury and wonder about something they aren't telling you, DEMAND an answer. They only choices they will have is to dismiss the Jury or to answer.

September 16, 2010 at 11:20 a.m.
whatever said...

Oh I agree they can't charge you criminally without a person there, but I believe you are mistaken about the civil process, namely that you can protest having to pay it if you wish, and that they can send it to a collections agency.

At least the ones I've seen have included a way to dispute it and go to court. I haven't seen any from Red Bank or Chattanooga lately but I can't imagine why they'd be different. If they are, ok, fair enough, you should have the opportunity to dispute it.

I have not seen one operator of these cameras say they can't turn it over to collections, instead every time I've seen them mention unpaid citations, they say they'll turn it over to collections.

So...either your police officer is mistaken, you are misunderstanding what he said, or every single article I've seen on the subject has been completely wrong.

Besides, whether or not you were driving at the time isn't a defense to a civil offense. By driving a car on public roads, you do have a responsibility to obey the law, and as it is your property, you have a responsibility to ensure whoever is allowed to drive it with your consent is going to obey the law. Criminal, I would agree, that needs more demonstration than you just being responsible for your property, (For example if you handed some drunk person your car keys), but civilly? I'm sorry, you want your property on the roads, I expect you to take care with it.

September 16, 2010 at 11:21 a.m.
whatever said...

Is anyone really surprised at the judge's ruling? Allowing the lawsuit would limit the government's power over every little facet of our lives and we can't have that now, can we?

If you object to the government having power over the roads, then I think your idea of proper government would not be doing the job I expect it to do.

Sorry, but you get behind the wheel, I want somebody watching you.

September 16, 2010 at 11:24 a.m.
srd275 said...

TO ALL WHO ARE HERE:

THIS COMMENT IS MOST LIKELY ASTRO TURF FROM THE SCAMERA SIDE:

"Don't speed or run red lights and you won't be ticketed"

Vendors like ATS were recently busted for ASTRO Truf (to fake public support). http://www.washingtonstatewire.com/home/4779-scottsdale_red_light_camera_firm_stands_behind_astroturf_campaign_in_mukilteo.htm

FIGHT THE SCAM!

BAN THE CAMS!

DEMAND A VOTE BY THE PUBLIC!

<p>www.motorists.org www.banthecams.org www.camerafraud.com>

If you want to do a petition check out others who have:

<
p>www.bancams.com (WA) www.saferbaytown.com (anti camera site in Baytown, TX).

and www.nocamerashouston.com>

whatever said...

THIS COMMENT IS MOST LIKELY ASTRO TURF FROM THE SCAMERA SIDE

Somebody else also has an agenda.

September 16, 2010 at 11:32 a.m.
princehal said...

I've got two of them. Never paid them. Never seen any warrant out on my name. Nothing sent to collections. Screw 'em!

September 16, 2010 at 1:02 p.m.
undone said...

I am ready for the courts to be done with the cameras. they are here, I believe they are working. They are making people stay focused on the road and it is a good thing.

September 16, 2010 at 2:10 p.m.
William18 said...

I applaud the court for making this decision in Knoxville. We, unfortunately, live in a day and age where distracted and aggressive driving is rampant and the use of camera enforcement is a valuable pro-safety tool.

September 16, 2010 at 3:25 p.m.
ExtremeJuJu said...

What a cluster to would have been if the outcome was different. What a cluster an intersection can turn into with out regulation and driver willing to take responsibility!

September 16, 2010 at 3:30 p.m.
countrygirl71 said...

"Vice Mayor Monty Millard provided the lone dissenting voice in that vote. 'I’m all about safety, but we’ve gotten nothing but negative publicity about this,' he said at the time." Glad we have a politician more concerned with "negative publicity" than public safety. Sad to see someone in power cower to a vocal minority and vote against something that could have such a positive impact on the safety of our streets, like the cameras.

September 16, 2010 at 4:13 p.m.
yogilives said...

I'm glad this nonsense is behind us, let's get back to the heart of the issue - enforcing our traffic laws deters reckless driving and that saves lives. Camera are far more effective (and efficient) than any number of cops on the street so they are providing far MORE deterrence and at much less cost to the city. If you don't like getting fined, don't speed or run red lights and you'll have nothing to fear from a camera or a street cop!

September 16, 2010 at 6:34 p.m.
sunnydelight said...

And don't listen to "comment page lawyers" like sunnyd above. Sunnyd probably owns a collection agency working for local government. They WILL come after you for unpaid tickets Well Bookiewannabee You are wrong as usual. It's been done over and over and over again. No I don't own a collection agency. I am retired .
Never had a camera ticket. Got all need to live comfortable for the remainder of my life . You know nothing. Three notices and they toss it. It's a fact. I know I have friends and family who have ignored the tickets .They ran a few through my shredder as we laughed about it . Your guessing and your guessing wrong.

September 16, 2010 at 6:38 p.m.
cubuffalo said...

This is welcome news. These systems are a big part of why highway fatalities are at their lowest levels since the 1950's.

September 16, 2010 at 7:11 p.m.
noogiefree said...

YAYAYAYAY! This is a win for those that are tired of complainers and lawbreakers trying to blame others for their own behavior. You are responsible for your actions when you get behind the wheel.

September 16, 2010 at 7:21 p.m.
plsnomobama said...

I am all in favor of giving back money from the government to the people, but not to those who broke the law. This lawsuit is absurd. These drivers need to own up to their irresponsibility and start following the laws.

September 16, 2010 at 9:21 p.m.
freewheel said...

It's hard to believe the driving public fights so hard against improving accident rates - we all have kids out there both walking and driving - why wouldn't we want the safest environment for them? These traffic devices are proven to reduce accident rates. We have the safest highways in years. Why isn't that reason enough - stop breaking the law and there are no worries with tickets, pictures, collection agencies, etc.

September 17, 2010 at 12:59 p.m.
antelope78 said...

Be an adult....if you get a ticket, pay it. If you want to spout off constitutional rights, please just realize that when you run a red light, you are breaking a law and taking others safety/property into your hands which is not alright with me.

September 17, 2010 at 2:28 p.m.
bugaboo2 said...

Laws are laws and if you break one then you better be ready to pay the price. Red light cameras are there to find the law breakers and make the intersections a safer place.

September 18, 2010 at 4:46 p.m.
Ariel123 said...

Why would a judge dismiss this? I agree with him or her. If you break the law, you don't deserve to pay. The rest of us do.

September 20, 2010 at 2:22 p.m.
spiff said...

Some of you are quite misinformed. Yes, a city can send a ticket to a collection agency. On the other hand, you do not have to pay it, because they can do nothing if you do not. The collector will threaten to harm your credit but this is a minimal threat. The best thing to do is put the ticket where it belongs, in the shredder. If enough people shred the tickets, the cameras will disappear. The profit motive will be gone.

Do a bit of research and you will find that companies like redflex have been in all kinds of trouble for bribery, etc.

It amazes me how people will simply allow corrupt local governments to do anything they wish. With all of the corruption in recent years between Red Bank and Chattanooga, it is incredibly stupid to give politicians any more power than they already have. Crutchfield, Love, Long, etc.

Notice how Home Rule is used when it is convenient, but not allowed when it knocks out a corrupt politician. Note the recent recall case in Chattanooga. Yet, it is okay for municipalities to do anything they want when it comes to traffic enforcement. I guess the appeals court thinks it is okay for cities to make up anything they want.

Someone suggested putting the cameras on the ballot. You are delusional. There is no way local politicians will allow this. They know that in every case where cameras have been put on the ballot, cameras have lost. This has occurred in numerous cites. I would bet the mayor would run to court as fast as he could to overturn the vote. Maybe a campaign contribution to the judge would help.

Other than the obvious solutions to the cameras, such as plastic film and vaseline, we are limited to a couple of options: Toss out the politicians who support them, or find a technical alternative to disable the cameras. Believe me, there are people working on this.

I propose another solution: Set up a citizens committee to follow politicians around who support cameras. After all, if they are in public, they can claim no privacy. 24 hour surveillance of local politicians would be a great thing. This means that if they visit their girlfriends, boyfriends, bookies, etc, there will be a record. I bet the court system would jump to correct their behavior. Right. I bet the politicians would be screaming about privacy rights. No doubt some corrupt court would probably support them, unless heat from citizens gets too hot.

It is time for citizens who have intellect to stop this nonsense. For all others, just keep watching reality television and stay out of the way. Maybe you can even allow a camera in your house. After all, if you aren't doing anything, you should not object.

September 21, 2010 at 11:48 a.m.
spiff said...

By the way, there is a poster named cubaffalo on this site. Do a google search and you will find that cubaffalo is a shill for a traffic camera company. This poster has posts all over the country on this issue.

This is a typical tactic employed by companies in the industry, such as redflex and ats. This is a craven attempt to sway public opinion. Do a bit of research and you will find these companies involved in all sorts of nasty activities like attempting to keep citizens from voting. If you don't believe it, look up the cases in Houston and Baytown. ATS is even arguing that allowing citizens to vote will violate the voting rights act. These people know no bounds when it comes to protecting the cash cow.

If you think this is about safety, you are nothing but a fool.

September 21, 2010 at 12:24 p.m.
MountainJoe said...

cubuffalo is full of *&%#. Traffic cameras DO NOT improve safety. There are numerous studies that have confirmed that red light cameras actually make intersections LESS safe, and speed cameras are essentially a wash (they help in some limited cases, but they can be harmful in others). Try this on for size:

http://www2.tbo.com/content/2008/mar/12/na-red-light-cameras-increase-accidents-usf-study-/

The reason highway fatalities are at their lowest level in decades is that the CARS are safer now. In the 1950s there were no seat belts. Just a few years ago, few if any cars had air bags. Accidents that would have caused death or serious injury in years past are now usually survivable. I have personally walked away from a multiple-rollover crash that totaled the vehicle I was riding in, because I was wearing a seat belt (and the vehicle itself absorbed most of the damage, protecting its occupants as it was designed to do).

Don't pay the "tickets" (invoices), folks. I am not sure whether or not they can submit them to a collection agency, but if they do, so what? You can always challenge any negative credit information on your credit report. They CANNOT issue a warrant for your arrest or even put points on your license without the violation being witnessed by an officer, who then writes you a citation.

Massive civil disobedience (i.e. not paying the fines) WILL bring the SCAMeras down. No revenue = no cameras. The choice is yours.

September 21, 2010 at 1:30 p.m.
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