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Safety Measure or Just Another Tax? Debate Over Red Light Cameras Intensifies
Supposed to Reduce Accidents, Red Light Cameras Face Increased Opposition
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By JOHN WETENHALL
Aug. 13, 2010
You let a friend borrow your car. A few weeks later you get a ticket in the mail with a picture of the car running a red light. You know you were not driving the car, but now you're stuck with a ticket and have to prove your innocence.
Lawyers say such a hypothetical situation is not only unfair, but illegal.
Red light cameras have become popular because they supposedly reduce accidents at intersections while generating revenue for cash-strapped municipalities.
But now ticket recipients and their lawyers are pushing back.
Dennis Salvagio, a criminal defense attorney from Orlando, Fla., said the traffic cameras and the way cities use them to issue tickets are illegal because they force citizens to prove their innocence, rather than forcing cities to prove drivers' guilt.
"It was unconstitutional from the get-go," Salvagio told ABCNews.com. "I think everybody should fight it."
The West Palm Beach, Fla. law firm of Schuler, Halvorson & Weisser has filed 27 class action lawsuits against Florida municipalities, charging that they have operated the cameras without legal authority. The first ruling came in Orlando, where the city may be forced to refund over $4 million collected from over 50,000 tickets issued since the city started the program in September 2008.
In Houston, another attorney, Paul Kubosh, organized a group called Citizens Against Red Light Cameras, which has gathered over 30,000 signatures on a petition that would put the cameras up for a vote before the community.
"All I want is a vote. Just a vote!" Kubosh told ABCNews.com.
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