Sensible fix to camera law
The people of Florida have won a victory in the red-light camera legislation that was introduced by state Sen. Jeff Brandes and passed into law during the 2013 legislative session. The bill cured many of the defects that existed in the previous red-light camera law. Among many of the positive changes is the ability of drivers to challenge a red-light camera violation using an administrative proceeding. Previously, citizens had no right to due process unless a Uniform Traffic Citation was issued with a higher fine rate of $264. All drivers who receive this violation now have a reasonable process to follow, and local hearing officers are used to conduct the hearings. The hearing officers are restricted from imposing excessive fines, which are now capped at $250. Under the new system, a person receiving a red-light camera notice of violation can pay the violation at the rate of $158, furnish an affidavit or request a hearing within 60 days to avoid receiving a traffic citation. The notice of violation contains information that directs citizens to a website that provides information on their right to request a hearing as well as a standardized form to fill out and submit. Registered owners of vehicles can file an affidavit that names the person who had care, custody and control of the car at the time of the violation. That person is then duly noticed, and they may either pay the violation or request a hearing. Rental car companies would file such affidavits, and the person renting the car who received the violation would have ample opportunity to pay at the $158 rate or request a hearing. Brandes’ fix will avoid the frustration experienced by citizens who attempted to take care of red-light camera violations and were faced with impediments. Clerks of court were put in the precarious situation of having to provide answers to citizens when there were no satisfactory answers. Now, citizens have a streamlined process outside of the complexities of the court system to take care of these matters directly with the cities. It provides a mechanism for rental car drivers to be afforded due process of law and be given the opportunity to pay at the reduced rate.The tremendous benefit from this legislative fix in the law will be realized by citizens, cities, courts and clerks of court. Now citizens can rest assured that the process has been fixed and that red-light camera violations can be handled in a fair and equitable manner.
Ken Burke is the clerk of the circuit court and comptroller for Pinellas County.