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Can This Simple Letter Get You Out of Paying a Red-Light or Speeding Camera Ticket?

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Wikimedia/Intel Free Press
With red-light cameras under so much fire, maybe now's a good time to try and fight those tickets.

Daily RFT is not giving legal advice, but recent events, such as the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals ruling against the use of red-light cameras in Arnold, is further indication that these cameras are not on firm legal footing. So when a blog about how a Virginia man wrote a letter to dispute his camera ticket that resulted in his fine being dismissed crossed our desk, we were curious.

The letter, which was posted on CopBlock.org, said this:

To Whom it May Concern,

I received a letter claiming I committed a violation of a speeding law in the District of Columbia on 04/21/2012. As per the instructions, I am writing to plead 'not guilty' to this charge. Although this option is said to result in this matter going to court; it is my suggestion that the charges simply be dropped. This suggestion comes out of respect for tax payers, and my request that their hard earned money not be wasted in such proceedings. As there is no evidence of my involvement with this alleged 'crime', as well as the fact that I am not granted my 6th amendment right to face my 'accuser' (a camera); I see no way the government could prove my guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I also see find no legal requirement for me to implicate someone else in this process, as it is the government's responsibility to prove a person's guilt. It is also my 5th amendment right to remain silent on the matter.

If it is the government's decision to move forward in this matter, I would request copies of any evidence the prosecution may have of my involvement in the "offense"; as well as, all maintenance records for the camera(s) involved.

Sincerely,

Nathan Cox

United States Army Veteran

To get an expert's opinion on if a stunt like this wouldn't end up in cops and judges barreling over in laughter before sending in a S.W.A.T. team to kick down our doors and throw us in prison, we talked to Mike Carter, a St. Louis defense attorney who dislikes photo-enforced tickets so much, he won a judgeship based on an anti-red-light camera platform.

"These cameras smack of indirect taxation, dishonest discussions about public safety versus revenue, and it involves a private company very much engaged in and wishful that they hit the right intersection with the right amount of ticket issuing so they can get their 33 or 50 percent of the revenue," Carter tells Daily RFT. "I just don't like anything about it."

See also: St. Louis City Counselor: Don't Like Red Light Cameras? Don't Drive.

Carter says that given the current confusion in the courts about camera tickets, a letter like this should work. But just because it should, doesn't mean it will.

"Depending on the sophistication of the personnel of the city, they should abide by what [the blog says]. But some of them are on such a revenue-bent that you can't see the reality of the law," Carter says.

The "proof" part is murky, especially since if the city prosecutor wants to try to prove it, they can probably do so.

"The burden on a criminal case is always on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt," Carter says. "But typically, they're ready to pull out the camera, show you the video, get an officer out to show you what he saw in the video, and they'll make a determination from a legal standpoint about what happened on the video."

But what if it wasn't you driving and you'd rather not snitch on your significant other who was going a few miles over the speed limit because he or she couldn't wait to see you?


Click on the next page to see what Carter says about snitching on your loved ones...

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41 comments
w0by
w0by


This varies state to state.  In Illinois they are not required to prove that you were driving the vehicle.  If you are the registered owner of the vehicle, you are responsible for the vehicle.  Even if your friend or child is driving the car at the time, you as the registered owner will be the one to get a ticket when getting your vehicles picture taken from a red light camera.

g.imperial
g.imperial

So what if the photos comes from a police officer's dash cam?

asthmatictriathlete
asthmatictriathlete

Received ticket on 01/2014. Sent the above letter (updated w my information, of course). It is now 03/2014 - I received a letter which declares I am liable to pay the $100 penalty.

paintinblue2013
paintinblue2013

I can prove the camera is faulty.. and whats the point of a defense attorney like this guy who is obviously against the good of the public?   

Tony Bologna
Tony Bologna

Or you could, you know...not speed or run a red light. Way less work.

Joe Bush
Joe Bush

We used to have them in Los Angeles, all have been removed except the following. I think the only places that have them in this area now is Beverly Hills and Culver city. The tickets are about $500 if you get one.

James Harris
James Harris

Tried it with a speeding ticket, does not work. Someone else was even driving my car that day. This was in Pine Lawn.

Donald Creswell
Donald Creswell

I absolutely despise all these light and speed cameras. But, is it really that difficult to come to a stop before you make your right turn? I find that coming to a stop at the intersection cuts down on confusion to everyone arriving at the stop sign or traffic signal at around the same time. person who stops first goes first. so i just stop, then I go. usually everyone else stops too. No confusion. No tickets. Magic. cheers.

Woody Atkinson
Woody Atkinson

I'm getting the same damn letters (and an occasional phone call). I ignore them. My question: why is the city using a law firm in Texas. Don't we have any lawyers in town??

Sj Braun
Sj Braun

sooner the better; get rid of them; no police states in our USA

Steve Dixon
Steve Dixon

Way to be simple minded. Should you stop at a red light? Of course. The problem with these cameras is that they incorrectly register a lot of the time. They give people tickets for making right turns on red and other problems. They also don't make the intersection safer. In fact, every study so far has shown that cameras make the intersections MORE dangerous.

Steve Dixon
Steve Dixon

Actually Brandon, pretty much every study has confirmed your suspicion. Red-light cameras make intersections more dangerous. Don't let any politician or policeman tell you otherwise. These are simply a cash-grab.

Chris McDaniel
Chris McDaniel

I hang them on my refrigerator door, as if they were my children's art projects. SO cute.

Cindy Harvey
Cindy Harvey

I fought one I thought I stopped at for a right turn. The judge has the video. Take your checkbook.

Patrick Shaw
Patrick Shaw

I should note, I too was turning right on red.

Patrick Shaw
Patrick Shaw

44 and Grand got me, still haven't paid. That was 3 months ago, I have a court date in a couple weeks. We'll see how this turns out.

Brian Schaffer
Brian Schaffer

FYI the photo for this article isn't a red light camera. It is a traffic sensor. The cameras are usually mounted on poles behind traffic to capture the plate.

John P Cooper
John P Cooper

(From a Huffington Post article) One particularly corrupt practice aimed at increasing the incidence of red light violations (and fines) involves the shortening of yellow lights in intersections with red light cameras, despite the fact that reports show that lengthening the yellow lights serves to minimize accidents. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, "a one second increase in yellow time results in 40 percent decrease in severe red light crashes." Indeed, those who claim to champion the use of red light cameras in the name of traffic safety are loath to consider reducing the length of yellow lights if it means losing significant citation revenue. An investigative report by a Tampa Bay news station revealed that in 2011, Florida officials conspired to reduce the length of yellow lights at key intersections below minimum federal recommendations in order to issue more citations and collect more fines via red light camera. By reducing the length of yellow lights by a mere half-second, Florida officials doubled the number of citations issued. Contrast that with what happened when the yellow light time was increased from 3 seconds to the minimum requirement of 4.3 seconds at one Florida intersection: traffic citations dropped by 90 percent.

John P Cooper
John P Cooper

Some communities have even been found guilty of shortening the yellow light time to catch more drivers.

Ann Mestres
Ann Mestres

I stopped for 2+ seconds and they sent me a ticket for $100. There was not a car in sight at any of the other points of the intersection. My break lights are on...

Brandon Herges
Brandon Herges

Does anybody else feel like red-light cameras almost make things MORE dangerous? There are some of us who will floor it to get through if it starts seeming like a yellow is coming because we don't want to be trapped in there at red, then others of us will slam on the brakes as soon as yellow is seen. It reeks of creating hazards by altering otherwise *expected* driving patterns, at least, to me.

Greg Grooms
Greg Grooms

Would the same defense work for parking tickets?

Chris Davis
Chris Davis

I think going and ignoring letters is fairly simple.

Tony Bologna
Tony Bologna

Ya know whats easier than that? Not running red lights.

John P Cooper
John P Cooper

Don't pay them, they cannot be enforced. I've been getting annoying letters from a law firm in San Antonio that StL has apparently contracted with to hassle people that have received these tickets. Mine were both for right turns on red without coming to a complete stop... in south St. Louis! We invented the rolling right turn on the south side!!!

12judges
12judges

I had a very interesting conversation with an attorney friend of mine regarding this issue. First, find an opponent of red-light cameras who has significant financial assets or can raise money politically. Second, advertise statewide (then maybe nationwide) heavily to convince people not to pay red-light fines. Third, combine all plaintiffs into a class action lawsuit with an understanding that defeat will result in plaintiffs’ fines being paid by the fundraising campaign.  Fourth, move the lawsuits up the legal chain to state and supremem court levels...force a constitutional ruling on the issue and watch as it doesn't mass muster.

Make the enforcement and burden of proof so onerous on cities, counties and states that they understand enforcement will mean a well-funded legal challenge every time. Obviously, this would require all plaintiffs to grow a backbone and stick with the plan, but it’s an interesting idea.

hchavezrey
hchavezrey

You were a school monitor weren't you Tony?  smh

jennyat817
jennyat817

I got a ticket for stopping 2 1/2 seconds rather than 3.

ddrp1961
ddrp1961

Good luck, and I hope that your ticket was not in Richardson Texas.  At my hearing, where I had every intention of challenging, the hearing officer/judge informed that the officer that viewed the video of my running a red light/turning right on a red light that turned said that if he had been there he would have gave a ticket, however, because the camera took a picture of the said violation,the ticket was technically not a ticket, hm.... Anyways, If you are in Texas, I don't think the letter will work

awesomeparadise
awesomeparadise

Anyone used this letter in reply and got their tickets dismissed ?


shookon3
shookon3

@andrianid @awesomeparadise What happened? I sent the letter but only got a letter in mail saying i have a court date... they didn't actually reply to my letter... Do they think most people won't show up for court then they win? What happened to you...

andrianid
andrianid

@ddrp1961 @awesomeparadise  Jersey City, NJ ... but it took a couple trips to the courthouse and an argument with the judge.  It's not a one and done kinda thing.

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