By David Ovalle, dovalle@MiamiHerald.com
Aventura and other cities circumvented state law when creating red-light camera enforcement programs that operated between 2008 and 2010, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The ruling’s practical effect: probable refunds for drivers cited for red-light camera violations during those years, said Brett Lusskin, one of the lawyers involved in the case.
He called it a victory for critics who have long insisted the cities went beyond their authority to grab cash from motorists.
“These were kangaroo courts trumped up for the purposes of extorting money from drivers,” Lusskin said Thursday. “They had nothing to do with justice.”
Red-light cameras have been a hot-button issue since cities began installing cameras at intersections, then mailing violations to surprised drivers. Supporters insisted that the program was designed to enhance safety on the roads.
Between 2008 and July 2010, red-light camera violations were not state traffic tickets but city “code violations.” In Aventura, motorists contesting violations had to go to hearings at City Hall — which they claimed were biased and unfair.
Lawsuits followed, and in February 2010, a Miami-Dade judge ruled that Aventura’s enforcement system circumvented state traffic laws. Aventura created the first red-light program in Miami-Dade.
But a Miami appeals court overturned the judge’s decision, saying the program was indeed lawful.
The Florida Supreme Court took up the issue because of conflicting decisions by appeals courts: in Orlando, judges ruled that the city’s program did indeed circumvent state law.
In response to the uproar about the programs, the Florida Legislature passed a new law that made red-light camera infractions a state violation. The statute went into effect July 1, 2010, and violations are now heard in front of traffic court magistrates.
The Supreme Court heard the issue in the case of Richard Masone, who sued Aventura, and Michael Udowychenko, who sued Orlando.
The decision will not affect red-light camera tickets issued after July 2010.
Did you get a ticket from red light traffic camera before July 2010? Tell us: https://www.publicinsightnetwork.org/source/en/insight/65376f4543f4/ticketed-by-a-red-light-camera-before-july-2010