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”.