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Fighting a red light violation

May 15, 2013
Pine Island Eagle

To the editor,

Last November, I received a letter accusing me of a red light violation. Two photos of my car, turning right were in there, too. But the photograph failed to show the color of the traffic light, the letter only claimed that I was in violation. A red light camera had apparently taken my picture, but the photos did not show that I had done anything wrong. The photos showed my car about 20 feet prior to entering the intersection and about 30 feet after leaving the intersection. Since it's legal to turn right on red in Florida, these photographs prove nothing. Along with failing to prove the color of the light, the letter sent no information about the location of the intersection. No court date was included. No instructions regarding how to contest it, either. The letter did, however, include an address in Arizona where I should send a check or money order in the amount of $158.00.

My first thought was that it was a scam. I have not been stopped by a police officer in 36 years. I've never had any trouble with the law. I didn't know this type of law enforcement was allowed, so in spite of their demand for payment only, I returned the letter to them along with a request for more evidence and a court date. I then started asking around and learned that it's not a scam. But it could be a mistake on the part of the private company which installs and operates these cameras at traffic lights. They did not answer my request, but they did have time to send a letter threatening to take my driver's license away along with increasing my fine if I failed to pay the initial fine. It sounded a bit like extortion to me. They did take my license, so I know it was not a scam.

Since this incident, I have been subjected to injustices, month after month. It disturbs me greatly that our state and our local government share responsibility. When one works in government and becomes aware of an injustice, does that person have a responsibility to take action? I guess not. I've been trying to get a court date since last November and so I have had communication with many government employees working in the justice system. When I stated my experience and my concerns, I was treated like I was just trying to be a pain, I should just pay my fine with expediency and the extortion would stop. These government employees assured me that this situation would not just go away and my fine would likely increase. Some of them said I was entitled to a court date, but still, their response was for me to"just pay it."Each time I call, the same office answers their phones or email. Passing the buck, giving the runaround, insulating one's self by not answering, it all seems to be the standard method for depriving the right of due process of law.

I have spent days waiting for the next available agent to pick up my call. I have spent months waiting for answers to the letters I wrote, yet they have suspended my license and increased my fine. Eventually, two employees said they would contact me with a court date, but I have never heard from them. Meanwhile. my license is suspended. The pharmacy is eight miles from my home and I am diabetic. I am being punished without first being found guilty of anything.

Eventually, the charges against me were dropped. I guess that a person with some common sense finally looked at those stupid pictures. However, they still insist that I pay a fee to reinstate my license, but I refuse to pay. I told them they are responsible for suspending my license with no proof of any wrongdoing, so they should pay that fee. Eventually, they also dropped the reinstatement fee.

Well, forgive me if I am not thankful for experiencing months of threats, extortion attempts, suspension of my license and lots of inconvenience. This experience has made me angry and I've lost faith in our government.

I suggest that intersection camera tickets stop all together, or at least stop giving tickets for right turns on red lights. I also suggest that a court date be included when a ticket is sent. Punitive action, such as invoking a person's driver's license, should also be clearly stated in that initial contact. Take all authority away from civilian camera companies, they seem to care most about money. Tickets should not be mailed until an attorney reviews and confirms the camera pictures to substantiate proof of guilt on the part of a driver. Using fictitious names of officers, witnesses or lawyers also should not be allowed. Also, tickets should be signed legibly so contact can be made directly with that individual. An advocate for drivers in these situations would also be helpful. Many drivers can't afford legal counsel. Law enforcement officers consider this to be a small matter. Those who feel unjustly ticketed are told to just shut up and pay.

In my case, I was denied the right to a speedy trial. I was denied access to discovery, meaning the proof that I actually violated a traffic law at all. There's been no communication with the court and no right to face my accuser. They repeatedly lied to me and tried to say that I asked for a court delay when actually, I was constantly requesting a court date. They claimed to have a police officer witness to the traffic violation, but his signature was illegible. This behavior, especially when it is targeting someone who has done nothing wrong, is unjust. This type of situation is even worse when it's coming from those who are trusted to honestly enforce our traffic laws.

Howard Freeman

St. James City



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