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Monday, September 24, 2007

Virginia: Two More Courts Uphold Speeding Ticket Tax

2/24/07 -

Hanover Circuit Court and Virginia Beach General District Court uphold the speeding ticket tax in Virginia.

A circuit court and general district court judge this month issued rulings upholding Virginia's controversial "civil remedial fees" that add a $1050 mandatory tax, on top of an existing $2500 maximum penalty, for speeding offenses of 15 MPH over the limit in a 65 zone (fee details). The balance of court decisions on the issue now tilt in favor of the tax developed by traffic attorney and state Delegate Dave Albo (R-Springfield) as a method of generating $65 million in new government revenue.

Virginia Beach General District Judge Calvin Depew Jr on Tuesday upheld the $1050 remedial fee imposed on Jason Duckwitz, a motorist who had been convicted of "aggressive driving" in an incident that took place just three days after the new fees were implemented. The decision followed last week's ruling issued from the bench by Westmoreland Circuit Court Judge George Mason III. Mason overturned a Hanover District Court ruling that had found the fees in violation of the equal protection clauses of the state and federal constitutions because they applied only to Virginia residents.

Henrico County Circuit Court Judge L.A. Harris, Jr. in August defended the state's "civil remedial fees". Harris overturned the August 2 ruling of a general district court judge (view ruling) in the same county. A decision by a general district court judge in the city of Richmond that ruled the fees unconstitutional still stands. The Richmond Circuit Court is expected to rule on an appeal to the case soon.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Waukegan Illinois To Launch 1st Red Light Camera

WAUKEGAN - Waukegan will launch its first red-light camera in early October, city officials said.

The camera will be at Lewis and Sunset Avenues on Waukegan's northwest side. Motorists caught on camera driving though a red light will be mailed a photo of the violation and fined, city officials said. A dozen more intersections could be outfitted with cameras later, officials said.

Chicago, Bolingbrook, Bellwood and Rosemont already use red-light cameras. Applications are pending for the automated technology on 50 state-operated roads, the Illinois Department of Transportation said.

Waukegan officials said the cameras are intended to make driving safer, not fill village coffers. Motorists caught on camera running a red light will be fined $100 while drivers caught by police are fined $75, Waukegan Police Chief William Biang said. The fee increase will help pay for the cameras, Waukegan Police Sgt. Anthony Joseph said.

Chicago Tribune Staff Report

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ohio Supreme Court Hears Red-Light Camera Challenge

Columbus, Ohio- Whether those pesky traffic camera photos are even worth the paper they are printed on is now up to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The high court Tuesday heard arguments in an Akron case that is certain to affect Cleveland and every other community that in recent years has turned to the so-called red-light cameras to enforce road rules and raise revenue.

The case involves an Akron woman who received a photo citation and challenged whether the city had a right to issue her a speeding ticket as a civil offense even though the violation, by state law, is a criminal act.
In Mendenhall v. Akron, the court will answer whether Ohio's constitutional home-rule provision allows cities to assess a civil penalty for something deemed by state law to be a criminal act.

"The statute allows local ordinances that mirror the state laws; what it does not allow is a change in the type of law . . . moving it from a criminal to a civil offense," argued attorney Warren Mendenhall, who happens to be the husband of plaintiff Kelly Mendenhall.

Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton noted that Mendenhall seemed to suggest the plaintiff should have been dealt with more harshly as a criminal offender.

"I would prefer getting charged with the civil" penalty, Stratton said.

Mendenhall suggested that the city's camera program is illegal and because no officer was present, his wife shouldn't have been ticketed at all - criminally or civilly.

Mendenhall notes that the home-rule provision prohibits cities from making local rules that conflict with the state's general laws.

Stephen Fallis, assistant law director for the city of Akron, said nothing in state law prevents local governments from establishing a law to work in concert with a state statute.

"It is still against the law to speed in the city of Akron," Fallis said. "It is still against the law to run a red light in Columbus and Cleveland and Toledo and Dayton and Springfield" - other cities with camera programs.

"We are complementing criminal law," Fallis said.

He argued that because photo traffic enforcement is relatively new and not in the state law, home rule allows cities to choose what penalties to apply.

Pursuing the cases civilly allows cities to make money by assessing fines and drivers to avoid points on their records.

Drivers across the state have grown irate with the automated traffic cameras, often stunned they had been caught weeks earlier. State lawmakers have tried to curb the effectiveness of the cameras. Cities contend the cameras improve safety.

Mendenhall had sued the city in local court, but the city and the company operating its cameras moved the case to federal court.

But before proceeding further, a federal judge asked the Ohio Supreme Court to first determine whether the camera program is legal.

By Plain Dealer Reporter Reginald Fields, 7/19/07


Sunday, September 2, 2007

E-ticketing will result in quicker police stops

Getting a traffic ticket in Indiana will soon become a little less of a hassle, at least as far as police are concerned. A new e-ticket system, which will be available later this year to law enforcement agencies statewide, promises to save time and money, cut the number of errors and free court employees from having to type information into computers.

It will, officials said, move citation writing from a sometimes barely legible handwritten affair into the computer age. Called electronic Citation and Warning System, or eCWS, the system will allow police officers to scan a driver's license and registration using laptop computers in their patrol cars. The driver's name, address, license number and other information are transferred to a ticket form. Motorists will still receive paper citations, but they will be printouts produced on the spot.

Once implemented, the system will allow police to get real-time information about drivers' records, including whether they had been stopped earlier the same day by another officer and issued a warning. The system represents the biggest change in traffic tickets since the early 1900s, said Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard.

At a news conference at the Statehouse Rotunda, Shepard held up a 1919 speeding ticket from South Bend. The ticket was handwritten, and a line was scratched out and new information written in. Shepard noted tickets haven't changed much since then. Traffic tickets represent almost half of the documents that launch court proceedings in the state, he said.

Writing tickets by hand has worked, "but not well enough," he said.
"Platoons of people" at various locations have to re-enter the information, which sometimes is hard to read, Shepard said. Indiana State Police Superintendent Paul Whitesell pointed out it takes about 15 minutes for an officer to write a ticket. With the electronic system, that time will be cut to five to seven minutes. That can add up quickly, as troopers issue about 750,000 warnings and tickets a year, he said.
Whitesell also said the system could help keep troopers safer by reducing the amount of time they spend outside their patrol vehicles. He noted four troopers were injured within the span of a couple of days recently when they were struck by cars after stopping vehicles along the roadway.

"You always want to keep your eyes up" when you're on the road, Boone County Sheriff's Deputy Sean Kutz said. The new system helps him do just that. The system is being tested by Kutz and four other officers, including one with the Fishers Police Department. A hand-held version is being prepared for motorcycle officers.

The cost of testing and implementing the system: $2.4 million. Funding came from several federal agencies, including the Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Homeland Security. About two dozen states are putting similar systems into place.

Story from, Rob Schneider.