ORLANDO – Another red light camera case is in the spotlight in the Florida courts system, prompting judges to reexamine whether administrative hearings for these violations are constitutional.
The latest case involves Steven Vincent Facella whose vehicle allegedly entered the intersection at Winter Garden, Vineland Road and Overstreet Road allegedly 0.3 seconds after the light turned red. Facella claims he did so because he was distracted by his screaming one-year-old child who was also in the car. The red light cameras captured this alleged violation and American Traffic Solutions (ATS) mailed Facella a $158 fine.
Facella’s case has been taken on by lawyer Kelli B. Hastings who had his own red light camera ticket rejected by an appellate court in a unanimous decision. The Hasting decision holds that local jurisdiction may not turn over their law enforcement control to private vendors.
In the Facella case, Hastings argues that that the administrative hearings for red light camera tickets violate due process by not letting individuals know of their right to be heard in traffic court. This is the same argument Hastings used in his own red light camera violation case. When Facella went to the administrative hearing, he was allegedly unrepresented and supposedly wasn’t allowed to question witnesses or cite the Hastings decision in his argument. Since this appearance, Hastings has taken on the case with Facella.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has also gotten involved in the case and is defending the findings of the red light camera system. She maintains that Facella should have filed a claim in the circuit court where he would have had due process.
Facella is not the only individual that has tried to fight red camera light violations and the role of the ATS in these violations. In the decision of the case Trinh v. State, the court ruled that ATS’ role in assisting the city of Oldsmar, Florida, with its traffic safety program was legal under state law. This mirrored the decision in the case of Jimenez v. State that also found that ATS’ involvement with the red-light camera violations is legal.
“We’ve now got two judicial opinions in great detail explaining what happens here and what doesn’t happen here,” Kevin P. McCoy, a shareholder at Carlton Fields told the Florida Record. “What doesn’t happen here is that there’s any delegation of the police power. It always remains with the police officers and that’s what both of those decisions sound. We look forward to any further judicial review of these programs.”
The red light camera program is used to capture violators that run red lights with camera evidence. According to McCoy, there should be little question whether an individual ran a red light, because the camera footage is proof.
“What never gets asked of the violation is “did you run a red light,”” McCoy said. “Did the system work the way it was supposed to and did it catch you running a red light? If it did, what are we doing here? What are we talking about?”
A decision in the Facella case is expected soon from the three-judge panel of the Orange County Circuit Court.