Judge Voids Tons Of Chicago Traffic Camera Tickets Over Due Process Concerns

from the duped-process dept

Being familiar with our story roster when it comes to traffic and speed cameras, the only logical conclusion that can be reached is that these devices have almost nothing to do with driver safety and almost everything to do with bringing in revenue for local governments. And, with the focus being on revenue as opposed to keeping human beings from harm, the mystery for all of the corruption surrounding how these camera contracts are awarded and implemented vanishes into a story of the age-old greed of the human being.

But to really see how spectacularly these cameras fail at just about everything, we can eschew the reports on safety and the lack of their impact for the moment and focus instead on how it’s quickly becoming clear that the cameras do a shitty job at the bringing-in-revenue part of the equation as well. We’ve seen already the staggering statistics on how many refunds have been issued for tickets issued by the camera system, but now the courts are getting involved as well. An example of this can be seen in Chicago, where a judge has ruled that camera tickets spanning back over a decade are simply void and that the city had violated the due process rights of the citizens under its care.

In a harshly worded ruling handed down late Friday, Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy kept alive a lawsuit seeking hundreds of millions dollars in refunds for motorists ticketed since 2003 after City Hall “skipped a step” mandated by the city’s own municipal code. The lawsuit filed nearly a year ago accused the Emanuel administration of violating the requirement to issue a second notice of violation before issuing a determination of liability against motorists issued speed-camera and red-light camera tickets.

The suit further alleged that the city failed to specify the make of the vehicle and that city notices indicate that late penalties will be assessed if payment is not received within 21 days of a liability determination, when a 25-day grace period is required by law.

I’m from and of this city and the notion that government officials didn’t bother to follow their own municipal codes and laws is so shocking that-haha, no it isn’t, my god this happens all the time. Still, the true nature of greedy government is on display here, with the city being so blinded by cartoonish dollar signs dancing before its collective eyes that it couldn’t see that the bullshit camera policy that it knew wasn’t being used for safety reasons wouldn’t even be able to pull in the revenue it wanted either, after the legal challenges.

And it’s not like the city even put in a real effort in this instance. The second notice of violation provision required by law is quite simple to follow. A first notice is handed out, after all, and this provision is shampoo in nature: rinse and repeat. It’s important, though, as it gives alleged traffic violators ample opportunity to contest tickets handed out by the camera overlords. Except, of course, the city clearly wanted to minimize the number of people contesting tickets, because that costs time and money, and this was all about generating revenue. This can be more clearly seen as the city haphazardly adjusted late fees for the tickets outside of the law.

Kennedy ruled that the three named plaintiffs in the case — Delyn McKenzie-Lopez; Themasha Simpson and Erica Lieschke — had “sufficiently alleged facts showing that the city’s retention of payments from determinations made without a second notice violates the fundamental principles of justice, equity and good conscience.”

“The alleged practice of accelerating late fees without statutory compliance is sufficient to show a violation of the fundamental principles of justice, equity and good conscience,” the judge wrote.

And this paves the way for the plaintiffs to request class-action status for anyone who received and paid these tickets since 2003. The city will likely settle that action, of course. After all, if it were happy to pay the family of a teenager executed in the street by police a couple of million to stay silent, it won’t think twice about making this whole thing go away.

But all of that does is affirm that these traffic cameras are good for nothing, as safety was never a concern and now the city is paying out as a result of tickets issues rather than collecting. Bang up job all around, Chicago.

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Comments on “Judge Voids Tons Of Chicago Traffic Camera Tickets Over Due Process Concerns”

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28 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Every municipality using them can be expecting a class action lawsuit over these. Why not just get rid of traffic law enforcement and farm it out to third parties, they do it with everything else. Hell, they don’t need a warrant to tap your phone anymore. So be careful, the terrorists are watching and listening.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Did you read the fine article?

If so, you need to reread it. This ruling isn’t about anything wrong with the cameras themselves (not that there is a shortage of things), but with the Chicago government failing to issue a second notice as required by local law and/or ordinance.

Any other municipality that did comply with their own local laws and ordinances (which may not include a requirement of a second notification) will be unaffected by this.

Ninja (profile) says:

The last municipal administration has increased the number of cameras by more than 50% here. The ‘revenue’ from such cameras already exceeded $300 million (I did a rough conversion to dollars). The news? They are expanding the program even further as it approaches a thousand cameras. This coupled with arbitrary speed limits and very shady evidence (only one photo, no way of auditing via image and lack of easy access to the equipment calibration info) produces aberrations such as the ticket I got in the city while I was over 200 km away. We call it the “Ticket Industry” here. Corruption at it’s finest.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Less corruption more ‘working as intended’.

Red-light/speed trap cameras were never about decreasing speeding, they were and continue to be all about easy money with minimal effort, which provides incentives to the towns and cities to deploy as many as possible and not look too close at how accurate they actually are.

Anonymous Coward says:

In the UK I believe speed cameras are generally a last-resort traffic calming measure that can only be put in after a number of deaths and/or accidents have occurred, and only after other traffic management measures have been installed.
Oh, and the police aren’t allowed to keep the money on ours, either.

Dingledore the Flabberghaster says:

Re: Re: Re:

It is largely true. That’s not to say that there haven’t been cameras installed for motives other than safety and congestion relief. And there is continued pressure to allow them to be exploited more than they are. For example: some places want to stop making cameras highly visible, as they’re currently required to be.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That’s why some people put tires on the speed cameras and set them on fire?

I read that not one crime has been solved due to any of the many cameras, but those same cameras have been used to watch women undress in their own bedrooms.

Yes, hiding the cameras will solve the problem … what?

In one instance, the person issued a ticket for exceeding the posted speed limit by several hundred miles per hour actually had to appear in court to contest said ticket. Do these geniuses think this a good idea?

It really does not matter how much lip service they provide in their meager attempts to codify their indignities towards others whilst stuffing their own pockets … many are able to see through the bullshit.

Dingledore t'Flabberghaster says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“That’s why some people put tires on the speed cameras and set them on fire?”

They put tyres (as we’re talking about the UK here) on the Gatsos because a) they’d been caught by hte camera and were trying to melt the film, or b) they were pissed off after getting caught.

Crimes are caught daily on traffic CCTV cameras (which you’re now alluding to, rather than Gatso speeding cameras). Illegal loads, fly tipping, dangerous driving, driving the wrong way, etc are extremely common.

And TPZ (Tilt Pan Zoom) CCTV cameras are restricted in their field of view by the laws that allow them to be installed so that they mustn’t be able to look into people windows.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Another corrupt blue city?

because not even the little guy is out for the little guy.

Kinda like how the Democrats constantly claim to be for the little guy while being millionaires themselves standing on the backs of those little guys. One thing is true, you can attempt to educate a democrat, but once they learn they become a republican, and once they gain wisdom, they become an independent!

The only people out for the little guy died long ago after they created the Constitution. We all have since, endlessly sought to pervert and corrupt that piece of paper along with the English language to fool the masses of very pliable minds.

NeghVar (profile) says:

a lose-lose situation

The rules here in Texas have changed to make things fair for those caught violating traffic laws. However, during early implementation it was a lose-lose situation for the people. Especially in Duncanville, TX. If you were caught by the traffic cam, it was a $75 fine. If you wished to challenge the claim, it would cost $75 to subpoena the traffic cam company to release the video to challenge in court. If you lose, that’s $150. If you win, you still had to pay the $75 for the subpoena. So either way, you lost.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: a lose-lose situation

It could be worse.

We had a deployment years ago (since removed) where the company that owned the cameras would send what they called a ‘courtesy notice’ to the ‘violators’. Said notice included what looked like an invoice with instructions on how to remit. The violators would pay that invoice; then a few weeks later would get an official summons from the jurisdiction regarding the same photo violation. The summons instructions were that one could either pay the fine by mail or appear in traffic court. Those that appeared in traffic court complained about already paying the fine in the ‘courtesy notice’ only to have the court tell them that said ‘courtesy notice’ had nothing to do with the citation; if they did pay they volunteered to do so but it would not be counted towards resolution of the citation before the court. After this hit the press the jurisdiction modified their contract but eventually the deployment was removed altogether.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: a lose-lose situation

” those caught violating traffic laws”

When the yellow light duration is reduced below the federal limit, is it still considered violating traffic law to be caught entering the intersection when the light turns red? How about when the reduced speed sign is missing or hidden from view? Are these fair?

James C. Walker (profile) says:

Chicago red light camera lawsuit

This suit needs to prevail and the city be required to refund enormous numbers of the illegal camera tickets where the city failed to follow the existing laws.

All red light and speed camera programs are predatory money grab scams, but when even the simplest laws of procedure are not followed the money grab scams become robbery.

James C. Walker, Life Member – National Motorists Association

JustMe (profile) says:

Oath of office

I often want to mention this idea but it seems particularly germane here. One presumes the city workers involved in the traffic cam process (from those approving the plan all the way to those charged with sending the letters) all took an oath of office or signed some sort of employment agreement. Those oaths and contracts usually contain some sort of language stating that that person will obey all city ordinances. Sooo…. let’s look at jail time, fines and termination (for cause!) for all of these fine, upstanding city workers. That’ll shake some tailfeathers around the country, I bet.

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