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MN Supreme Court strikes down red light camera enforcement

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MN Supreme Court strikes down red light camera enforcement

Old 04-08-07, 09:51 AM
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MN Supreme Court strikes down red light camera enforcement

http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/16/1688.asp

The Minnesota Supreme Court delivers a unanimous decision striking down the legality of red light cameras.

The Minnesota Supreme Court today delivered the highest-level court rebuke to photo enforcement to date with a unanimous decision against the Minneapolis red light camera program. The high court upheld last September's Court of Appeals decision that found the city's program had violated state law.

The supreme court found that Minneapolis had disregarded a state law imposing uniformity of traffic laws across the state. The city's photo ticket program offered the accused fewer due process protections than available to motorists prosecuted for the same offense in the conventional way after having been pulled over by a policeman. The court argued that Minneapolis had, in effect, created a new type of crime: "owner liability for red-light violations where the owner neither required nor knowingly permitted the violation."

"We emphasized in Duffy that a driver must be able to travel throughout the state without the risk of violating an ordinance with which he is not familiar," the court wrote. "The same concerns apply to owners. But taking the state's argument to its logical conclusion, a city could extend liability to owners for any number of traffic offenses as to which the Act places liability only on drivers. Allowing each municipality to impose different liabilities would render the Act's uniformity requirement meaningless. Such a result demonstrates that [the Minneapolis ordinance] conflicts with state law."

The court also struck down the "rebutable presumption" doctrine that lies at the heart of every civil photo enforcement ordinance across the country.

"The problem with the presumption that the owner was the driver is that it eliminates the presumption of innocence and shifts the burden of proof from that required by the rules of criminal procedure," the court concluded. "Therefore the ordinance provides less procedural protection to a person charged with an ordinance violation than is provided to a person charged with a violation of the Act. Accordingly, the ordinance conflicts with the Act and is invalid."
The Appeals court decision dates from last September.

The grounds by which this program was overturned by both courts seems so incredibly obvious to be it amazes me that these programs are still allowed to exist elsewhere.
Old 04-08-07, 09:58 AM
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why can't the state do this like with real estate and link the offense to the property, which is the car. the owner is responsible no matter who is driving.

i don't see the big deal about red light cameras since you aren't supposed to be running red lights in the first place. if the camera catches you in the middle of the intersection 2 seconds after it goes red, you can't really say anything
Old 04-08-07, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by al_bundy
why can't the state do this like with real estate and link the offense to the property, which is the car. the owner is responsible no matter who is driving.
Because that would be silly. Auto mechanics, valets, stolen license plates, stolen cars, rental cars, a sober friend driving an intoxicated friend home in his own car, multiple people driving the same car on a long road trip, and so on and so on and so on. Not to mention the hundreds (if not thousands) of documented cases of false and/or questionable accusations resulting from misinterpretation of the pictures by people who were not even at the scene of the "offense."

Not to mention that would still fail to address the basic (and rightful) objection of the Court. It is the State's obligation to establish guilt.
Old 04-08-07, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by al_bundy
i don't see the big deal about red light cameras since you aren't supposed to be running red lights in the first place. if the camera catches you in the middle of the intersection 2 seconds after it goes red, you can't really say anything
A lot of times, there is an extreme profit motive, or at least extreme need to justify the usefulness of the cameras. This can lead to shorter yellow lights and more stopping short at intersections, and, as a result, less safety at intersections with these cameras.
Old 04-08-07, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by al_bundy
why can't the state do this like with real estate and link the offense to the property, which is the car. the owner is responsible no matter who is driving.
That's what they do. In this case, the Minnesota Supreme Court says that violates state law, and hence is not permissable.

i don't see the big deal about red light cameras since you aren't supposed to be running red lights in the first place. if the camera catches you in the middle of the intersection 2 seconds after it goes red, you can't really say anything
The problem I have with red light cameras is that they are a revenue generator. They are frequently operated by contractors that receive a cut of the revenue, encouraging both the contractors and government to place the cameras in locations likely to drive revenue rather than increase safety. Taken to the extreme, a government could be encouraged to short-time lights in order to receive more revenue from the camera. If contractors were paid based on some objective measure of safety increase rather than how many tickets they can produce, I'd feel a lot more comfortable.
Old 04-08-07, 10:38 AM
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The only problem I have with red-light cameras is when they are seen as a source of revenue, rather than a safety measure.

There is no denying that the intersections in Albuquerque where these have been installed have become safer.

Of course, during the first week of operation, when hundreds* of tickets were being issued every day, at every intersection, the State decided it wanted a cut of the proceeds.

There goes a good plan!


*the rate has dropped from hundreds to dozens.
Old 04-08-07, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Duran

The problem I have with red light cameras is that they are a revenue generator. They are frequently operated by contractors that receive a cut of the revenue, encouraging both the contractors and government to place the cameras in locations likely to drive revenue rather than increase safety. Taken to the extreme, a government could be encouraged to short-time lights in order to receive more revenue from the camera. If contractors were paid based on some objective measure of safety increase rather than how many tickets they can produce, I'd feel a lot more comfortable.

Plus over time, they simply tend to be a tax on visitors since residents figure out where the cameras are and adjust their driving accordingly. For example, in DC, there is a speed camera right when you come out of the I-395N tunnel - locals slow down to 45 (speed limit) and then speed back up to 60+ after the lines on the road (where the camera is aimed). It is so incredibly stupid and does nothing to improve safety.
Old 04-08-07, 11:30 AM
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I don't understand the ruling. The new red light cameras in Albuquerque take a picture of the driver's face as well as the rear license plate. It would be easy to stand before a judge and say, "That driver obviously isn't me. I was inside a restaurant at the time."

The locations are on the most dangerous intersections in the city, which have already have had their light cycles tuned for maximum safety. They have long yellows and double-reds. People were taking advantage of the double-red to sail through the intersection before crossing traffic got going too fast.
Old 04-08-07, 11:34 AM
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if a mechanic or a valet gets a red light ticket you can always sue the company they work for and win. no biggie. same thing with stolen cars.

if you lend your car to a friend, or take turns driving on a long road trip or whatever it's still your car and i don't see anything wrong with the state saying you are responsible for it. same thing with real property.

the timing of yellow lights, there was already a case where someone won it based on their observation that the yellow was shorter.

with NYC they do this via the dept of finance and tie it to your car. no points or DMV record. just a fine.
Old 04-08-07, 01:17 PM
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So, if a cop isn't there physically to see the crime, the crime hasn't been committed. That's what the court seems to be saying. And that's retarded.
Old 04-08-07, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by al_bundy
if a mechanic or a valet gets a red light ticket you can always sue the company they work for and win. no biggie. same thing with stolen cars.
i take it you've never valet'ed a car before.
Old 04-08-07, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by al_bundy
why can't the state do this like with real estate and link the offense to the property, which is the car. the owner is responsible no matter who is driving.

i don't see the big deal about red light cameras since you aren't supposed to be running red lights in the first place. if the camera catches you in the middle of the intersection 2 seconds after it goes red, you can't really say anything
So if I steal your car and run over a donkey, you'd need to replace the donkey?
Old 04-08-07, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by al_bundy
with NYC they do this via the dept of finance and tie it to your car. no points or DMV record. just a fine.
Unless you block the box!
Old 04-08-07, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
So, if a cop isn't there physically to see the crime, the crime hasn't been committed. That's what the court seems to be saying. And that's retarded.
That's not at all what I'm reading. The court is saying that because somebody takes a picture of somebody in your car doing something illegal, it's not okay to use that to establish a rebuttable presumption that you've done something illegal, which is what the traffic cameras do.

From reading the article, they make it sound as if all the state has to do is:
1) Show vehicle X being driven in a way that breaks the law,
and
2) Show vehicle X's owner Y (through motor vehicle registration, I suppose).

Once they've done that, the state has created a rebuttable presumption that owner Y was driving the car, and it's up to owner Y to demonstrate he wasn't driving it. Which places a burden on owner Y contrary to state law, I presume from the article.

From what I can tell, the court wasn't even saying "you can never place liability on the owners of the vehicle," but "the current state law only allows liability for the drivers."
Old 04-08-07, 02:25 PM
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Well, all the state needs to do is re-word the damn photo "notice". A notice is mailed to the owner's address with a photo. Ticket should read something like this:

----

Dear So-And-So,

Your vehicle was photographed while violating _____ (cited speed laws) at _____ (name of street, intersections, and times and dates). The following is a photo taken of the driver of your vehicle at the time of the incident. If this is NOT you, please arrange a quick appointement with the court clerk to verify the information. If this IS you, then mail the fine to the following address.

Regards,

The City

----

Obviously, you can create a ticket so it does not necessarily mean the owner is automatically guilty. I'd be curious to see how the ticket is worded in Minnesota.

Of course, since a human was not present at the time of the incident, and the accused does nothing to prove themself not guilty, then you do have a situation where the accused is automatically guilty. But this happens when you get a ticket from a cop and don't show up in court anyway to prove your case.

So, a "notice" is sent to the owner. If the owner fails to reply to prove innocence, then the notice becomes a "ticket" and is then treated as such.

Last edited by DVD Polizei; 04-08-07 at 02:32 PM.
Old 04-08-07, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
Of course, since a human was not present at the time of the incident, and the accused does nothing to prove themself not guilty, then you do have a situation where the accused is automatically guilty. But this happens when you get a ticket from a cop and don't show up in court anyway to prove your case.
Unless I'm missing something, you're never automatically guilty if you don't show up in court to dispute a ticket. You may get a bench warrant or a summons for not showing up on your bonded date, but you can't be tried in absentia. It's not like a civil trial where you can default... the criminal defendant has to be there.

I'm very leery (on personal and constitutional grounds) of any criminal system where the burden of guilt is shifted to the defendant.
Old 04-08-07, 03:05 PM
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While safety is nice... why is everyone so enthusiastic about having a system that requires you to prove your innocence ?? Why the fuck should I or anyone else have to take time out of our lives to go to court and prove that it wasn't us driving at the time etc .... I believe any traffic offenses should require the law to prove your guilt (as in an officer physically ID'ing you at the time)... as stated these become money making 'offenses' for municipalities and therefore are suspect.
Old 04-08-07, 07:06 PM
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Originally Posted by ChiTownAbs, Inc
i take it you've never valet'ed a car before.
Or sued anyone, for that matter.
Old 04-08-07, 07:34 PM
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his can lead to shorter yellow lights and more stopping short at intersections, and, as a result, less safety at intersections with these cameras.
I think this is very true. Serisouly, have people noticed how the yellow light seems to be being phased out or only on for a ridiculously short time?

It's just motivating people to drive faster to beat the red light which they aren't always able to do.
Old 04-08-07, 08:10 PM
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Originally Posted by greg9x
While safety is nice... why is everyone so enthusiastic about having a system that requires you to prove your innocence ?? Why the fuck should I or anyone else have to take time out of our lives to go to court and prove that it wasn't us driving at the time etc .... I believe any traffic offenses should require the law to prove your guilt (as in an officer physically ID'ing you at the time)... as stated these become money making 'offenses' for municipalities and therefore are suspect.
You make it sound like you have multiple people driving your vehicle and you just don't have time to refute all the bad drivers who drive your car.

As far as going to court to prove your innocence, somebody could sue you civilly at any moment. You would be required to show up or the plaintiff would more than likely win. Our CJS is most certainly about proving your innocence. If you get a ticket from a cop, you are not necessarily guilty at that point. It's the judge who confirms the ticket and determines whether it should be dismissed or affirmed.

I live in a city where photo cameras are being put up more often and while some may not like them, I do notice traffic STOPPING when the light turns red. The cameras should be painted a neon orange so even more people can see them. I haven't noticed any negatives so far.

However, I agree it is a money-making opportunity for the city, and this should be watched on how they fairly setup the traffic lights.

Last edited by DVD Polizei; 04-08-07 at 08:13 PM.
Old 04-08-07, 08:37 PM
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I'm in law enforcement and in Minnesota...and I thought these cameras were a huge mistake. I'm glad the Supreme Court knocked this down.

Not being able to prove who was driving is the main concern here. Ticketing someone for something they "may" have done and not in the presence of LE is not the way our society needs to move.
Old 04-08-07, 08:39 PM
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I wish somebody were to take this to the courts in Illinois. It's a huge money maker in Chicago.

Is there any retribution for people that paid the fines?
Old 04-08-07, 08:46 PM
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Originally Posted by ChiTownAbs, Inc

Is there any retribution for people that paid the fines?
That seems a little harsh. Maybe they'd settle for restitution.
Old 04-08-07, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by FiveO
I'm in law enforcement and in Minnesota...and I thought these cameras were a huge mistake. I'm glad the Supreme Court knocked this down.

Not being able to prove who was driving is the main concern here. Ticketing someone for something they "may" have done and not in the presence of LE is not the way our society needs to move.
You're just trying to protect your job.

In PA, AAA was very active and the places where they have the red light cameras are clearly and obviously marked. I'm ok with that, as it seems obvious it is for safety. Kind of like when they leave empty cop cars on the side of the road to induce better driving behavior.
Old 04-08-07, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by al_bundy
why can't the state do this like with real estate and link the offense to the property, which is the car. the owner is responsible no matter who is driving.

i don't see the big deal about red light cameras since you aren't supposed to be running red lights in the first place. if the camera catches you in the middle of the intersection 2 seconds after it goes red, you can't really say anything
Brilliant! I'll be running redlights constantly whenever I rent cars.

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