South Florida puts the brakes on red-light camera tickets until legal cases resolved

By Emma Gallimore | Apr 15, 2016

TALLAHASSEE – The red-light camera program across South Florida is on hold pending the result of multiple court cases.

TALLAHASSEE – The red-light camera program across South Florida is on hold pending the result of multiple court cases. 

The Florida Supreme Court recently refused to hear an appeal from the city of Hollywood. The Fourth District Court of Appeals had previously ruled that Hollywood outsourced too much of its red-light program to a private company. Many cities suspended their programs after that ruling.

“Our red-light camera program is on hold,” Matt Little, public information specialist for the city of Fort Lauderdale told the Florida Record. “It’s not being enforced right now because of the court cases.”

Court cases are still being heard. Miami-Dade County has a court date on June 15.

While the extent of outside contracting is a major part of the discussion, other aspects of these programs are being tried as well. One such case in the Fort Lauderdale weighed whether automobile renters were and should be treated differently than automobile owners caught on red light camera.

The Fort Lauderdale case started in 2014 when June Dhar, who was renting from Dollar Rent A Car, allegedly committed a red-light camera violation. Notice of the violation was sent to Dollar Rent A Car. The company then filed an affidavit that identified Dhar as the driver.

Because of the time delay and processing associated with the affidavit, Dhar could not pay the statutory penalty of $158. Instead, she had to pay added court costs associated with a uniform traffic citation for a total of $236. Once a uniform traffic citation is issued, it is recorded in the individual’s driving record unless it is dismissed in court. So not only did Dhar pay a higher fee than the owner of the car would have, her driving record was also tarnished.

In February, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed a Fourth District Court of Appeal decision that found rental car drivers were being denied their right to due process in red light violations. The court, however, also said that the unequal treatment was most likely an oversight during the writing of the law.

Theoretically, this oversight could be correct with an amendment to the law. That is unlikely to happen anytime soon, however, because officials across Florida are waiting to see how the court cases shake out. Until then, red-light programs are on hold in much of the state.

“It’s been months since we’ve issued any tickets,” Little said. “The cameras are still in place, but we’re not enforcing.”

Drivers should be aware that the Supreme Court decision and other decisions in courts across the state, do not mean drivers can just ignore existing tickets. Drivers still have to appear in court. But their cases are likely to be dismissed, at least in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Broward County courts have already dismissed more than 24,000 red-light-camera tickets.

A class-action suit targeting 38 cities and counties is underway in Miami-Dade County’s federal court. It remains to be seen whether drivers who have already paid red–light-camera tickets will be able to get a refund.

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