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Red Light Camera Revenue has Increased 419 percent since 2008

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New Orleans attorney says camera laws circumvent constitutional rights
NEW ORLEANS, La. – The New Orleans Annual Operating Budget indicates that the city government has increased its reliance on revenue from red light and speed cameras to cover holes in the operating budget. Revenue from red light cameras, for example, has increased from $3.4 million in 2008 to a projected $18 million in 2011, an increase of 419 percent.

As a percentage of the total general fund, red light cameras alone now account for 3.6 percent in 2011, up from 0.7 percent in 2008. Revenue from all fines is set to comprise 7.5 percent of the general fund.

Sen. Danny Martiny (R – Metairie), has introduced Senate Bill 75 to eliminate speed cameras across the state, and he is not surprised by the increases in revenue. He believes the city avoids putting cameras in poorer neighborhoods, and instead targets wealthy areas.

He contends that classifying red light camera tickets as an administrative violation, as opposed to a criminal violation, allows the justice system to circumvent the standard rules associated with the submission of evidence.

“If a policeman stops you and writes you a ticket for speeding, you have the right to go to court and argue your case. For [red light camera violations], there’s nobody saying they saw you speeding, so it’s much more difficult to fight.”

Attorney Joseph McMahon III echoes Sen. Martiny’s statements, and claims that municipalities have designed civil statutes associated with camera allegations to favor themselves. “We feel the entire process is unfair and heavily favors the city. People don’t have a way to realistically defend themselves, since the ordinances subvert the laws of Louisiana. So generally, you cant win.”

McMahon states that since red light camera violations do not fall under the Uniform Motor Vehicle Law of Louisiana, making it an administrative violation, certain constitutional rights are forfeited. “What the municipalities have done is created civil statutes that take away all of those rights so they can change the playing field in favor of the city.”

After calls to several city officials for comment, they transferred me to an automated message service that claimed drivers who are unable to pay their red light ticket will have “an arrest warrant issued” and their “license will be suspended.” This can result in an inability to renew your license and/or vehicle registration until the fine has been paid.

 

Robert Ross is a researcher and social media strategist with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be contacted at rross@pelicaninstitute.org, and you can follow him on twitter.

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