Fla. court: Red light cameras pre-2010 were illegal
By: Associated Press
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TALLAHASSEE (AP) -
Florida cities that installed red light cameras before the state authorized them will have to return millions of dollars in fines now that the Supreme Court has ruled they were illegal.
The court ruled Thursday that red light camera ordinances in Aventura and Orlando violated a state law that requires uniform traffic enforcement.
The decision only applies to cities that installed red light cameras before a 2010 law allowing them was enacted.Red light cameras in Orlando and Aventura were challenged and two appeals courts had conflicting opinions.
The 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach said Orlando's red-light camera ordinance conflicted with state traffic laws. The 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami, however, upheld red-light camera fines collected in Aventura before the new law was passed.
The following cities had red-light cameras before 2010: Bradenton, Lakeland, Temple Terrace, Brooksville and Port Richey.
Cameras in Tampa, St. Petersburg and other cities in Pinellas County installed the cameras after 2010 and are not affected by the ruling.
Officials in each of the that are affected cities say they're not exactly sure what to do next, or how this ruling affects them.
According to the ruling, the municipal governments that had the cameras before 2010 would have to return the money.
That brings up several more questions: where's the money going to come from? How do drivers get their money back? What proof do they need?
These are issues that those city leaders will be tackling in the coming days and weeks.
"There are other legal maneuvers that the cities can use to try to delay the ultimate result, which will be the recovery of millions of dollars for drivers," said Dave Kerner, an attorney who is representing drivers in the case. "The monies they collected, they collected unlawfully."
That's not exactly the way the city of Orlando sees it. Lawyer Mayanne Downs said fines would only be returned to drivers who disputed their red light camera tickets, but not to those who willfully paid them.
Downs estimated that Orlando would have to return about $100,000.
The Supreme Court was ruling on two cases that had gone before separate appeals courts with different outcomes. The 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach said Orlando's red light camera ordinance conflicted with state traffic laws.
The 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami, however, upheld red light camera fines collected in Aventura before the new law was passed.
While Downs said she's disappointed that the city lost the case, she said there are no regrets about starting the red light camera program before the Legislature approved them. She said the cameras have saved lives, and Orlando's program forced the state to address the issue.
"We just had an amazing number of red lights being run by our visitors and citizens and we just felt like we had to take a stand," she said, adding that the first intersection the cameras were installed saw a 95 percent reduction in red light violations.
Justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince disagreed with the opinion, saying that the state's uniform traffic code makes running red lights illegal and cities have the ability to enforce the law.
You won't find Kurtis Kelly singing the praises of red light cameras.
"I'm opposed to them i think theyr'e an invasion of privacy," Kelly said.
He says back in 2008, he got popped by the one on the corner of 56th and Fowler in Temple Terrace.
"Extremely angry because I didn't believe I had run a red light," Kelly said.
Aventura Attorney Bret Lusskin was involved in the case, he applauds the ruling.
"These cities tried to create their own version of rules of the road," Lusskin said. "They were absolutely breaking the law brazenly."
Most of the cities affected are waiting to see how the legal chips will fall, but some drivers could be owed refunds.
"Viewers that received red light cameras tickets before July 1st 2010, my suggestion would be to reach out to an attorney," Lusskin said.
"These cameras are about not about safety about money awul lot of money being ade on drivers in Florida," he added.
Kurtis Kelly, who was part of a class action lawsuit over red light cameras in Temple Terrace, agrees.
"They're punishing the majority for the small percent thats bad and I don't think that's right," he said.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report/Additional reporting from Josh Cascio
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