Florida high court slaps red light cameras, but not much changes

By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog

BUSTED: Florida Supreme Court rules red light cameras not legal before 2010.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Opponents of red light cameras just got a little help from some new friends — the Florida Supreme Court.

But they shouldn’t get too excited.

The high court ruled Thursday that Florida cities didn’t have the authority to use red light cameras to ticket motorists prior to 2010, or until the state Legislature enacted laws specifically allowing them.

Tens of thousands of fines are invalidated as a result, but it’s not likely ticketed motorists will get their money back unless they legally challenged their citations. Money voluntarily paid is not recoverable despite the sweeping ruling.

Writing for the 5-2 majority, Justice Charles Canady said state law preempted municipalities from adopting their own “enforcement regimes” unless they were spelled out in the Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law.

Red light cameras were not.

That changed in July 2010 under then-Gov. Charlie Crist when the Legislature passed the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act authorizing video-based ticketing.

Thursday’s ruling specifically addressed local ordinances in Orlando and Aventura, but applies throughout the state.

“The Orlando and Aventura ordinances are invalid because they are expressly preempted by state law,” wrote Canady.

The court refrained from delving into the “wisdom and public policy questions” relating to red light cameras. But groups like the National Motorist Association have raised a number of objections ranging from the constitutional right to confront one’s accuser to public safety concerns.

Contact William Patrick at wpatrick@watchdog.org

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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