Saturday, April 24, 2010

Red Light Camera Enforcement 2010

The battle over the use of Red Light Cameras continues here in the City of Houston as reported by Bradley Olsen of the Houston Chronicle. I’ve been tossing in my 2 cents worth since 2004; started my blog as a result of a botched op-ed piece printed in the Chronicle. My opinion hasn’t swayed the folks in power and each year more cameras are installed to help raise revenue; I mean, help make the world safer through Orwellian intervention.

In an article posted October 20, 2009 I continued to explain how revenue, not safety, was the driving force behind Red Light Cameras.


In case you aren’t familiar with the issue, tickets issued by a traffic enforcement camera are handled as civil rather than criminal cases. Municipalities which employ such systems willingly admit that tickets issued by cameras could not stand up to the requirements of a criminal court; but such high standards don’t apply to civil matters, really? I’m no lawyer; all the same, when I hear lame excuses like that I make sure to wipe the brown residue from off my shoes.


The city tried to get county officials to make it impossible to register vehicles which had been snapped by a Red Light Camera until such time as the fines had been paid.


“The downside is becoming a tool of the city for their incredible revenue grab,“ Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack said. “It’s come to look like it’s more of a revenue situation than trying to change people’s behavior.”


Running a red light is a serious traffic violation and deserves to be addressed; but addressed through the proper channels; with a police officer being the primary witness and, if possible, mechanical verification to back up the testimony of the police officer. It has been proposed that a police officer, by virtue of the fact that all images of a violation are reviewed by a certified law enforcement officer, that a police officer actually witnessed each and every violation; can you say, “BS”?


“County Judge Ed Emmett questioned why the county was being asked to block registration only of those with unpaid red-light camera citations, and not those who failed to pay tickets issued by police.”


“George Hammerlein, director of inter-governmental affairs with the tax office, said the data from red-light camera citations is easier to use than criminal court data, which can be difficult to determine whether a conviction is final.”


If you’re paying attention, that last line should be the focus of discussion. The City of Houston, as do many major metropolitan areas, see Red Light Camera tickets as if they were final convictions, convictions which do not require any witness to testify against the accused; for that matter, no trial.


Oh, so that’s it; when a camera snaps your picture there is a presumption of guilt, just as if a trial had already taken place, a judgment of guilty rendered and a fine mandated. Now I get it; civil trials take place the moment your vehicle clears the intersection, somewhere in the mechanism of the camera. I always wanted to know the difference between civil and criminal courts; now I know.


HPD Assistant Chief Vicki King is correct, running red lights is dangerous and should be dealt with; but I’d have to remind Assistant Chief King, side stepping the justice system in favor of more efficient methods to increase revenue taints the entire system. Use our existing judicial system, one which permits the accused to defend his/herself and face any and all witnesses, a system which requires the rule of law, a process which demands accountability for a fair and equitable outcome in front of a judge or jury.


This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal , a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.

12 comments:

Starsplash said...

Right on!

The probligo said...

The presumption must be that the camera lies?

Should there be no traffic lights?

Or is it that you think there should be a policeman on every corner?

Traffic controls have a very good purpose. A red traffic light has a very specific (and legal) meaning.

I do not particularly care how a person who breaks the law is caught. Red light or any other law. Break it and you deserve to get caught. Again, I have been caught twice now exceeding the speed limit. unlike some, I don't bitch and whine about police radar, laser speed detectors or speed cameras. I make sure that I stay within the speed limits.

If I am involved in a traffic accident I want to be certain that I am in the right.

T. F. Stern said...

Probligo, I too believe that folks who violate the law should be held accountable; but within the established rule of law. If not for the rule of law then society has nothing with which to depend upon other than brute force. The history of civilization is measured by and in the rule of law. I would rather a thousand law breakers get away with their crimes than for the state to proceed without the rule of law. This holds true at every level of justice, all the way to the Supreme Court.

When I listened to how the last nominee would need to be empathetic, let the needs of the little guy take precedent over large corporations, to rule with compassion rather than the rule of law, a piece of our society fell to the ground broken. Without the rule of law there is chaos, favoritism and corruption.

Getting back to the issue of camera enforced traffic tickets, there is a key element which has been side stepped, that of confronting any and all witnesses who have submitted testimony. In the case of red light tickets there is a presumption of guilt simply because a camera snapped a photograph of a vehicle entering an intersection once the light changed.

In a court of law many elements must be proven prior to a finding of guilt. The identity of the driver is paramount followed by the witness account of all factors; weather, road conditions, type of vehicle and vantage points which might be influenced. The defendant must be able to counter the witness in open court, a chance to impeach the viability of any statement in order to have fairness.

I submit that a mechanical device cannot be a witness; it can augment a human’s account of an event but it cannot be the primary witness. In the City of Houston, and in other places, a police officer has been assigned to review all photographs for accuracy, as if by doing so he/she can take the place of a true witness. This is a corruption of the rule of law pure and simple. How much more are we willing to throw away in order to obtain revenue? No, the rule of law must be adhered to for civilized society to exist.

The probligo said...

OK. So let's take a wider view of this.

"I submit that a mechanical device cannot be a witness; it can augment a human’s account of an event but it cannot be the primary witness."

So, can a "mechanical device" produce evidence to be produced in Court?

Take the highly computerised laboratory equipment used these days for producing DNA evidence. All ruled out under your thinking?

What about the use of CCTV and security camera records to reveal identity from a crime scene?

Where does the use of computers to record evidence fit in? You know, like word processing, photo recording and processing? OK so I am stretching things there I admit.

Take away the red-light cameras and you would have traffic like in Auckland. Here, at the worst intersections, drivers wait up to 10 seconds after the green before moving off. Why? Because there are law-breakers running the red from the previous phase.

DOes that seem right to you?

Is the solution a policeman on every corner as I suggested before?

T. F. Stern said...

Probligo, Short of calling you out for intentionally playing ignorant, I’d have to say you have developed some interesting holes in reasoning power. Evidence and witness are both terms used in courts, yet are not the same. DNA evidence is nothing without the human being who must declare it from the witness stand and then it must be weighed as to its relevance by a judge and/or jury as to its importance to the case. DNA by itself is nothing more than some dots on a strip of film. The same is true with photographs, or CCTV information; without a human being to interpret the images they are not even evidence.

Then there is the old argument of putting the cart before the horse; which in the case of traffic violations comes into play. In the case of traffic tickets issued for speeding where a radar instrument was used, the officer must first observe what appears to be a violation followed by the radar mechanism verifying that officer’s original observation. It is not proper for the radar unit to alert the officer of a speeding violator and then to write the ticket even though many times, perhaps more than half the time, the buzzer of the radar going off alerts the officer to make an observation and then write a ticket. In either case, the officer must observe the violation of speed and the verification by mechanism is his/her support of that observation.

Taking that a step further, the radar unit cannot be a witness, mechanical devices may act to corroborate human testimony; but cannot testify. They can be evidence if introduced properly by a witness, but never can they be a witness.

In a society which would require a police officer to be on every corner, the idea of a police state comes to mind. In civilized society which takes in republics and similar democratic forms of self government, citizens are responsible for adhering to the laws which they themselves have put in place and therefore are obliged to follow without the need for a policeman on every corner. If and when that changes, either the laws are imposed upon the citizenry by totalitarian government without the citizenry asking for those laws or the level of self governance has dropped to such a point where the citizenry no longer deserves the right of self governance; in either case a police state soon follows.

The probligo said...

"Short of calling you out for intentionally playing ignorant, I’d have to say you have developed some interesting holes in reasoning power. Evidence and witness are both terms used in courts, yet are not the same."

MmmHmm? So if a camera takes a photo of me running a red light, I can ask for it to go to Court? Then the camera has to be subpoena'd... Nah, come on TF. Tis you that is playing games with the logic.

If taken to Court the photo will be produced and it will have exactly the same standing as the DNA evidence...

Or is your beef not really with the camera, but with a democratic federal system that does not allow you to ask for a traffic matter to be heard before a Court?

If that is really the case, why misrepresent it?

MK said...

Red light cameras and speed cameras have always been about raising money for the state to fund it's various activities to 'help'.

Leftists love them to death, not because of 'safety' and all crap, but because it gives them yet another means to control and steal money at the same time.

Leftists have no qualms that it means you're guilty until you're proven innocent in such matters. If you were caught red-handed raping a child though, they'd insist that you're innocent until proven guilty, only after numerous appeals off course.

"I do not particularly care how a person who breaks the law is caught."

So the search of a suspected murderer's home without a warrant of any sort is just fine then?

"I have been caught twice now exceeding the speed limit. unlike some, I don't bitch and whine about police radar, laser speed detectors or speed cameras."

So faulty cameras or faulty readings are just fine with you then, well good for you, i'm sure the state will be very happy with your compliance. But don't expected everyone else to just bend over and pay up like you proby.

"So, can a "mechanical device" produce evidence to be produced in Court? Take the highly computerised laboratory equipment used these days for producing DNA evidence. All ruled out under your thinking?"

You missed his entire point proby, not surprising given your thickness. DNA evidence doesn't mean you're suddenly guilty and present yourself at the nearest jail to serve out your sentence, it just means you will be prosecuted and in court and may then be found guilty. The cameras don't give you that luxury.

"Here, at the worst intersections, drivers wait up to 10 seconds after the green before moving off. Why? Because there are law-breakers running the red from the previous phase."

That is just so much bullsh*t proby, do you even know how to count 10 seconds. Unless you can provide some proof of this, then it's nothing more than the shrill squawking of a galah.

I know it's hard for you proby, but do try to keep your need to stick your beak into everyone else's life and business. And if that's just not possible for you, try not to make stuff up.

MK said...

"Or is it that you think there should be a policeman on every corner?"

Oh and to stop your caterwauling about an alternate plan and diffuse the valid charges about revenue raising, all they'd need to do is put in place the following steps.

First offense of driving through a particular red-light camera, you get a warning letter advising of it. This makes the assumption that you did it by mistake and there is no fine.
Second offense at the same place, you have to report to your nearest police station and explain why, i'm still pondering if a fine should be in place at this point, but for now, i think the discomfort of turning up at a police station should wake the driver up.
Third and further offenses at the same location and other locations will mandate a warrant for court appearance and possible fine and prosecution. The way i see if it, if you're doing the wrong thing at the same place over and over, someone ought to check if you're even fit to hold a drivers license and consider some jail time for your ass.

The presumption should be that the person is innocent until proven guilty, not the other way round.

The way it works now, they fine you and eventually take your license away, which results in a lot of people driving unlicensed. So they're just really screwing over the law-abiding for their mistakes and won't punish the real bastards out there on the roads.

T. F. Stern said...

Probligo, I want you to try this at home, take a picture with your favorite camera, one you have confidence will not lie to you. Then once the picture is taken have your camera explain what is on the photograph in clear and precise language. If you have to wait a while I'm a patient person....how long will it take before that camera can talk much less answer questions?

Time to move on, reason is not on your list of strong points.

The probligo said...

TF, obviously you are having problems thinking straight over the screeching of your pet galah.

Going back to your original post -

"“County Judge Ed Emmett questioned why the county was being asked to block registration only of those with unpaid red-light camera citations, and not those who failed to pay tickets issued by police.”


“George Hammerlein, director of inter-governmental affairs with the tax office, said the data from red-light camera citations is easier to use than criminal court data, which can be difficult to determine whether a conviction is final.”


If you’re paying attention, that last line should be the focus of discussion. The City of Houston, as do many major metropolitan areas, see Red Light Camera tickets as if they were final convictions, convictions which do not require any witness to testify against the accused; for that matter, no trial.


Please clarify -

1. Does a person who is caught by a camera have the right to a Court hearing?

2. Can the validity of the image be challenged?

If the answers to both those questions are "No" then I agree, you have a problem.

From your later comment -

Evidence and witness are both terms used in courts, yet are not the same. DNA evidence is nothing without the human being who must declare it from the witness stand and then it must be weighed as to its relevance by a judge and/or jury as to its importance to the case.

Exactly. My "stupid question" was making exactly that point.

Again, if you get snapped, do your rights include having a hearing before a Court?

It does in NZ. The thing to bear in mind is that here the $75 camera fine can become a $350 traffic conviction in Court.

I think that your beef is not with the cameras, or the process, just the fact that you occasionally run red lights.

T. F. Stern said...

Probligo, I give up, you win. I just hate following the law, run every red light I come up against hoping to maim or kill my fellow citizens. Since that's what you believe what difference would it make about the rest. Next...

MK said...

"TF, obviously you are having problems thinking straight over the screeching of your pet galah."

Ah yes, when faced with some hard questions and having some holes poked in your already weak & dishonest arguments, dismiss and flee by smearing, name calling and projection. The last refuge of the intellectual pygmy.

Well done proby, well done, i expected nothing more from you. That picture of yours in your adolescence is most fitting.