Picture getting home from work one day, running out to check the mail, and finding that you have a ticket waiting for you in the mail. The ticket alleges that you have broken a traffic ordinance and must pay a fine or show up for court. You don’t know what this ticket is talking about, so you do a little research and find out that a traffic camera recorded you driving a month ago where you slowed down at an intersection (but did not stop) and then you made a right turn on red. A camera sent you a ticket?
Citizens across the nation find themselves in situations like these on a daily basis. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (“GHSA”), “12 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have speed cameras currently operating in at least one location” and “24 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin islands have red light cameras operating in at least one location.” (See http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/auto_enforce.html). The GHSA lists a number of different legal consequences that might apply in different states, including in Tennessee where points won’t be added to your driving record, but you can be accessed a fine of $50 per violation.
Advocates for the use of traffic cameras provide such arguments that the traffic cameras make our streets safer and it is like having extra officers on the streets. Opponents argue that traffic cameras might actually increase accidents, are just money machines to raise funds for the government, and/or are downright unconstitutional. And these differences of opinion have given rise to legal actions across the nation.
One such instance arises out of California in the case of Howard Herships v. California. As reported by Dennis Romero of LA Weekly, Herships received a number of traffic camera tickets and has argued that they are unconstitutional as they violate the U.S. Constitution‘s Confrontation Clause (namely, his right to confront his accuser) (click here to read Dennis Romero’s article). At Herships’s trial, a police officer was allowed to testify as to the authenticity of the traffic camera pictures and videos, even though the officer did not personally observe Herships breaking a law (see http://www.scribd.com/doc/214945429/Howard-Herships-Red-Light-Camera-Cert-Petition-Filed-Copy). The problem, worded colorfully by Dennis Romero, is “how can you [confront your accuser] if your accuser is a camera?” Now Herships is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case.
Each year the U.S. Supreme Court turns down hundreds of cases seeking an audience with the Justices, as is their right. As of now, the Supreme Court has not decided whether to hear Herships’s case and may decline to do so. But traffic cameras are a part of daily life across the nation, a part that many citizens would like to see go away.
The author of TNLawyerLee is Nicholas W. Lee, Esq., an attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you or someone you know need an attorney, please click herefor Mr. Lee’s contact information and contact him today for a free consultation. Also, please feel free to visit Mr. Lee’s website,www.TNLawyerLee.com or follow his page on Facebook for updates as to his law practice or new posts to TNLawyerLee by clicking here.
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