TALLAHASSEE – At issue in a recent Florida Supreme Court decision is an old version of the state’s red light camera procedures, which was found to be unfair to drivers of rental cars.
The old policy was to send a notice of violation, which could be paid without any lasting impact on one’s driving record, to the owner of the vehicle. When the owner was not the person operating the vehicle, as in the case of rented cars, a citation was issued. This meant that those renting cars didn’t have access to that first step in the process, the notice of violation.
The statute that caused this issue has since been amended, but only recently was the legal challenge to that old policy settled.
“It was a somewhat interesting legal issue that’s almost irrelevant because the legislature changed the statute,” attorney Edward Guedes told the Florida Record.
In the case before the Supreme Court, June Dhar was caught on a red light camera driving a vehicle from Dollar Rent-a-Car. Because of the old procedure, she was not given a notice of violation, which came with a $158 penalty. Instead she received a uniform traffic citation, which came with a $263 price tag and any consequences in terms of her driving record.
Dhar argued that this was an unfair burden placed on drivers renting vehicles, and in a 6-1 decision in February the court agreed.
“Basically, it affirmed what the district court ruled, that the statute as it was implemented at that time was unconstitutional because it treated similarly situated individuals differently,” Guedes said. “That problem disappeared when, a couple years ago, the legislature amended the statute.”
While it may be too much to attribute the statute’s change to Dhar, in particular, many other motorists found themselves in a similar situation, and the legislature likely took note of this case in addition to others brought to their attention by constituents, Guedes speculated.