Effective July 1, 2013, drivers that are issued a red light camera ticket will be permitted to contest the ticket in front of the city that issued the ticket. The hearing will have to take place within 60 days of the ticket being issued. Currently, the driver receiving the ticket only has 30 days to appeal the red-light camera ticket. Florida made a total of $100 million from red-light cameras last year and is set to make $120 million this year. This bill will give drivers the chance to fight the bill and to see whether the driver did in fact run a red light.
Currently, if a driver wants to fight a red-light camera ticket, he or she has to wait for the city to issue a uniform traffic citation, and then he or she can go in front of a judge in traffic court. These hearings are heavily contested by the local city attorneys and often require extensive traffic litigation. If the driver does in fact lose the red light hearing, the fines will increase to $264. The current fine for a red-light camera ticket is $158. It will be particularly hard to overturn a red-light violation since the city that is collecting the fine is also the one who oversees the violation in court.
The new law will also be more lenient on drivers making a right hand turn on a red light. The law states that the driver “fails to make a complete stop before the turn, they will receive a citation, but they won’t receive a citation for failing to stop before the white line”. There will be some tolerance with this law, but a red light camera is pretty clear-cut evidence and will be extremely hard to overturn in court in front of a hired city official.
The city will be allowed to nominate their own city employee to serve as hearing officer, hire a special magistrate or to partner with other cities and share hearing officers. It is unclear how much training and how extensive the training will be for these nominated city employees. They will need special training to be able to interpret the red-light cameras. Again, the same city that is hearing this appeal is benefitting from the fines, so it will be a tough appeal to win. The goal of this bill is to speed up the appeal process and also to be more effective in accessing the red-light camera tickets.