Court Tells Man $172 Red Light Camera Ticket Is Actually Less Than $100 And Can't Be Challenged In Court

from the you-see,-once-you-subtract-all-the-other-money-you're-obligated-to-pay... dept

Adding to the body of evidence showing that the use of traffic cameras is purely about revenue generation is this report from The Newspaper, which points out (yet again) how these systems are designed to eliminate due process and hasten the collection of fines and fees.

In this case, part of the designed due process elimination was already in place before the red light cameras went up. Certain citations are designed to be unable to be challenged, and this one — a red light infraction pinned on the wrong person — is one of them.

Recipients of red light camera tickets in Delaware cannot challenge the citation in court because the $172 fine is worth less than $100 by the reckoning of the Delaware Superior Court. Judge Abigail M. LeGrow last month denied the appeal of Stanley C. Lowicki, whose car was photographed by a red light camera while allegedly traveling through a red light at the intersection of Route 72 at Kenmore Drive on May 18, 2017.

Because he was not actually behind the wheel at the time of the alleged infraction, Lowicki challenged the citation before the local Justice of the Peace Court. The justice of the peace was not interested in his arguments and imposed the full $172 fine, which Lowicki appealed to the Court of Common Pleas. That court declined to consider the case since it is only able to hear appeals for “civil penalties” that exceed $100.

If you’re wondering how $172 can be less than $100, the Common Pleas courts is happy to explain it to you. In upholding the Justice of the Peace Court’s decision, the Common Pleas court performs the sort of math you usually see deployed by Hollywood studio accountants. From the decision [PDF]… no, wait a second. Let’s hang back a minute and savor this judicial turn of phrase:

On May 18, 2017, a car Stanley C. Lowicki owned was captured by a traffic camera disobeying a red light on Route 72 at Kenmore Drive.

Great. The traffic lights are sentient. So are the cars. Bring on Skynet etc.

OK. Here’s the court’s breakdown the $172 fine, which is pertinent to its finding that $172 is less than $100 and, therefore, incapable of being challenged.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the JP Court found Mr. Lowicki responsible for the violation and ordered him to pay $172.50, consisting of the following amounts:

Fine Amount: $75.00
Court Costs: $25.00
Court Security Fee: $10.00
Transportation Trust Fund: $37.50
State Police Fund: $7.50
Local Law Enforcement Fund: $7.50
Ambulance Fund: $10.00

To challenge a fine, it must be over $100. Breaking down all the fees attached to the actual “fine” shows most of the assessed fine isn’t actually the fine, but a bunch of handouts to everyone involved in the scheme (except ambulances, I guess…). This keeps the supposed real “fine” under the $100 mark, which makes it unassailable in court. Drivers (or non-drivers, as it is in this case) can hope to talk the local JP into dropping the fine (and its costly appendages) but that option is rarely successful.

Lowicki argued that this breakdown of “funds” that are inseparable from the “fine” is some bullshit. He’s correct. But it’s the state’s bullshit and it pretty clearly seems to be constructed this way to maximize revenue while reducing the state’s exposure to courtroom challenges.

The court agrees with the State and its fund-packing.

The term “civil penalty” in Section 4101(d)(12) corresponds to the amount of the fine assessed by the JP Court, which falls within the “civil or administrative assessment” referenced in Section 4101(d)(3). Section 4101(d)(12) specifies that any late fees assessed under subsection (d)(3) also will be considered part of the civil penalty for determining whether there is a right to appeal. By specifically referring to only one of the amounts contained in subsection (d)(3), the legislature made clear that the other costs and fees imposed were not included within the “civil penalty.” Section 4101(d)(3) refers to those amounts as costs and fees, not assessments or penalties.

And, just like that, $172 becomes less than $100 and tickets from red light cameras become nigh invincible. There is no recourse in Delaware and Stanley Lowicki’s only option appears to be [checks notes] obtaining a more obedient vehicle.

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Comments on “Court Tells Man $172 Red Light Camera Ticket Is Actually Less Than $100 And Can't Be Challenged In Court”

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87 Comments
Bruce C. says:

Too many problems to deal with...

1) This is a fun-house mirror version of the way ISPs and cable providers hide added costs behind a false advertised rate. Here, you know how much the government is charging you, but it hides what your rights are under the process.
2) The idea that the owner of the vehicle can be fined when there isn’t any evidence that they were behind the wheel is disturbing.
3) Unfortunately, the "solution" to #2 is "better red-light cameras" with more viewing angles, more visual enhancement/contrast, and facial recognition.
4) #2 also seems like a useful (or annoying, from another POV) precedent for handling violations by autonomous vehicles. In such a case the vehicle actually would be "disobeying". Skynet indeed.

Dizzy Duck says:

Re: Re: Looney Tunes - Law of the land

I recently watched a u-tube clip of a truck driver given a ticket for having an unmade bed in the cab, following a stop and inspection with no other infractions.

Craziness has been made lawful by judicial mumble jumbo in so many ways.

Best advice: take a look at Edward Munich’s painting: Scream.

ANON says:

Re: Too many problems to deal with...

The idea that the owner of the vehicle can be fined …

No, what’s disturbing is that a piece of hardware can be responsible for issuing tickets. IMHO the more trivial the offense the more immediate the notice should be. (and most motor vehicle traffic offenses are trivial) The government doesn’t get to tally up your littering charges and present you with a bill at the end of the year. A ticket in the mail 2 weeks later does not drive the proper corrective lesson compared to being pulled over at the time. If it required a live and trained employee to hand out tickets, then they would be used judiciously where corrective action is needed, as opposed to a machine cranking out offense notices non-stop in post office time. (And often to the wrong person)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Too many problems to deal with...

The obvious solution is to change licensing and ticketing, which has been done in some jurisdictions.

The change? You are responsible for your vehicle and all fines it incurs UNLESS you report it lost/stolen. When insuring your vehicle, you include the licenses of the people allowed to drive the vehicle. Insurance then covers tickets under the minimum, but rates go up and a mark is added against the license of the person who was at fault. The raised rates and mark follow the driver’s license, not the vehicle.

If you make the fines about "your property was caught doing something it shouldn’t have been doing" instead of "YOU were doing something improper with your property" then a lot of the problem goes away.

Just like you’re responsible if your dog bites someone, even if it was someone else walking your dog at the time, you’re responsible if your vehicle runs a red light, even if someone else was driving it — you gave them permission to use your vehicle.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Too many problems to deal with...

you’re responsible if your vehicle runs a red light, even if someone else was driving it — you gave them permission to use your vehicle.

Horse shit.

If the car was stopped by an actual officer, the ticket would be given to the driver, not the owner.

Why is this different? (Hint: Because it’s hard to track down a person who isn’t the driver, and we can’t have police doing anything that’s hard.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Too many problems to deal with...

" you’re responsible if your vehicle runs a red light, even if someone else was driving it — you gave them permission to use your vehicle."

From where did you obtain your law degree and are you licensed in any state within jurisdiction of the US?

This appears to be providing legal assistance, was that intended?

Oh, and you are wrong.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Lawsuit?

That would do little to remove the points from his license.

They can fine him for the violation, but they can’t put points on his license.

That was the trade-off these states had to make when they started installing these cameras and holding people responsible for whatever their vehicles did even if they weren’t driving them.

For this to legally work, the states had to decriminalize most moving violations, because if it’s a criminal charge, like it used to be, then constitutional due process protections apply, as well as proof beyond a reasonable doubt that individual charged actually committed the crime, etc., which a state can’t legislate away for its convenience. So they had to take these traffic violations out of the criminal realm and make them civil or administrative violations, but in doing so, they’re prohibited from adding points to an individual’s drivers license for something another driver did, nor can they issue arrest warrants for non-payment of fines. The most the state can do is put a hold on re-registering the vehicle until the fine is paid and/or turn the debt over to a collection agency and ding the owner’s credit.

Anonymous Hero says:

Re: Re: Two can play that game

I had the same comment about late fees below.

Section 4101(d)(12) specifies that any late fees assessed under subsection (d)(3) also will be considered part of the civil penalty for determining whether there is a right to appeal.

That wording seems pretty clear that late fees count to reaching the $100 appeal threshold.

cattress (profile) says:

Re: Re: Two can play that game

It’s purely a "civil" offence. I’m a Delawarian. If you don’t pay then they block renewing the registration of the "offending" vehicle, until the car’s fine is paid. And while the cops can pull you over for an expired registration, they can’t arrest you for it.

I got one of these a few years ago in my mom’s car and my boyfriend just got one a few days ago. It’s sort of like how asset forfeiture is filed against the actual asset, and the only purpose is to make money for the state. They do allow for you to try to put the liability on the actual driver, but who is going to turn over their spouse or significant other? No one that doesn’t want to sleep on the couch for a month, and chances are it’s shared money that’s going to pay it anyway.

Anonymous Hero says:

Still appealable.

Section 4101(d)(12) specifies that any late fees assessed under subsection (d)(3) also will be considered part of the civil penalty for determining whether there is a right to appeal.

If I’m reading this correctly, Lowicki just has to stall to get some late fees appended to the civil penalty, at which point, he can bump it over $100 and appeal.

It’s like in football when a team purposely incurs a delay of game penalty to set up a better angle for a field goal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sue the state directly for not understanding basic math

If you have to pay x amount for a violation, no wizardry of word manipulation can change the fact that you are being ticketed for x. They are taking your money for a supposed violation and pretending that some of the money isn’t due to the ticket is a lie and needs to be dealt with. Supreme Court here we come over basic math problems.

Icy London, Icy France says:

If Delaware were smarter, they would just make it a requirement for challenging a ticket that you first post a bond for the full amount and then when the defendant wins his case, refund the amount of the fine. The fees attached to the fine, of course, would be non-refundable. It’s a win/win situation, the defendant doesn’t have to pay the $75 fine, the courts still get the $97.50 in fees. It’s not a penalty, it’s a user fee!

Anonymous Coward says:

As I see it.

First you have some jerk who runs a red light because — he is simply a jerk.

Then the jerk realizes that this is going to put points on his driving record and his insurance rates are going up and besides he must pay a fine and obviously they have no proof he ran the red light.

After all the running the red light was the fault of the car.

This is followed by the court finding him guilty and charging him a larger fine than the one he would have originally paid.

That is not enough. The jerk appeals.

The appellate agrees he is a jerk and raises the fine.

Maybe if the car did not speed it would not get cough speeding and the jerk would not be out all that money – fines, court cost, interest, court time, and insurance premium increases.

It would be even better if the court had charged the car with being a jerk and then let him discuss that with Buba in that place where the sun don,t shine.
Maybe, oh maybe, if society was even halfway lucky Buba would give him a case of Arkanside.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

After all the running the red light was the fault of the car.

It wasn’t the fault of the person who got the ticket, who was (wait for it, dicktard, wait for it…) not driving the car.

Perhaps you lend your car to your kids. I’d love to see the look on your face if they just issued any tickets they accrued to you.

cattress (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Don’t be an ass. Some people are jerks and drive recklessly. But not most or even many. It’s one thing for the cops to pull over someone driving aggressively and quite another to harass and shake down drivers with speed traps ticket machines. No one is made any safer, and there are studies showing these things can actually increase the likely hood of accidents.
Did you know cops and road crews screw around with the timers and set them so that they don’t give enough stopping time specifically to increase violations? And sometimes they even mess around the timers of multiple lights in order to frustrate drivers and increase the likely hood of running red lights and speeding further along that route that falls in within city limits. Like Newark, or Newport or Elsemere.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Bounties

That’s why you only ever see these cameras in larger cities. In small towns, they’d be used for target practice before a week was gone. I’m a LITTLE surprised that that doesn’t happen more often in larger cities as well. Even if cops are more likely to respond to shots fired in a city, a pellet gun can still disable a camera, and won’t generate a call to the cops.

cattress (profile) says:

Re: Re:

In theory this is not a bad idea. Too bad there’s no way to force the payment center to apply your payment towards the fine portion only and not all the other crap. And the penalty is effectively against the vehicle registration, not your driver’s license, but I can only assume they would decide entitles them to seize the car for it’s debt.

JudgeFather says:

Sounds like city and state have a "RICO Act" worthy ploy here...

Limit fines to less than $100.00 < Check >
Tack on all sorts of fees and charges below the line < Check >
Limit ability to appeal fines less than $100.00 < Check >
Profit <Check, Check, Check>
Pay Judges salaries/bonuses from this plan? < ???? >

Let’s have a federal investigation started since the State and City appear to be in cahoots.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Sounds like this needs a constitutional challenge

Doesn’t matter if the fine is only a penny, you SHOULD be able to challenge ANY alleged violation of law in court. Period. If something can’t be challenged in court, what’s to keep them from moving the bar later. Today it’s $100. Tomorrow it’s $1000. The day after it’s Contempt of Cop.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sounds like this needs a constitutional challenge

He can’t appeal this case any further because he now has to challenge the law itself as a violation of due process. Before he was just challenging the ticket. Now he’d be challenging the law. Two different pleadings. Two different cases. He’d have to start over with a brand new lawsuit.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Sounds like this needs a constitutional challenge

He can’t appeal this case any further because he now has to challenge the law itself as a violation of due process

Well, no, not quite. The JP was the highest level in the state at which the ticket could be reviewed. That means that the next step is the U.S. Supreme Court. See City of Los Angeles v. Edwin David, 538 U.S. 715 (US 19-May-2003).

He does have to file a petition within 60 days of the JP ruling, however, and by now time has surely run while he was waiting for the state court to decide that he cannot take it there. So, next time, he knows.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sounds like this needs a constitutional challenge

They get around this for traffic violations by saying they’re not crimes, but rather a violation of ordinance. Not paying the fine, however, is a crime.

No, they get around it by reclassifying traffic violations from criminal to civil/administrative. Doing so allows them to hold a lot more people liable for things with little to no due process requirements, but it removes their ability to arrest people for non-payment.

They can put a bar on your car registration. They can turn you over to a collection agency. But they can’t arrest you for not paying the fine because it’s no longer a penal code violation.

Paul B (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Sounds like this needs a constitutional challenge

Not 100% true, They can take you to court for unpaid fines and get a judgement like all other creditors. They just cant do this automatically. At this point you can show up to court to plead poverty, or, like most people, not show, get a judgement, and be arrested for not paying a court judgement (not a fine).

A LOT of debt collection firms have figured this out, its a national problem.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Sounds like this needs a constitutional challeng

At this point you can show up to court to plead poverty, or, like most people, not show, get a judgement, and be arrested for not paying a court judgement (not a fine).

If your neighbor sues you, wins, and you ignore it, you can’t be arrested for that. The sheriff can execute judgment and confiscate your property– bank accounts, real estate, etc. until the judgment is satisfied, but he can’t arrest you for not paying.

Anonymous Coward says:

The right to face my accuser should be infringed ? Whom ever owns the stolen vehicle is guilty by association ? Even if I can prove where my vehicle and person were at said time of infringement I will lose my driving privilege if the fine is not paid. Abe Lincoln said we had the revolutionary right, time we should exercise it, don’t you think?

Personanongrata says:

Consent of the Governed, Due Process and New Math

And, just like that, $172 becomes less than $100 and tickets from red light cameras become nigh invincible. There is no recourse in Delaware and Stanley Lowicki’s only option appears to be [checks notes] obtaining a more obedient vehicle.

There is recourse in Delaware ignore the ticket and practice sustained acts of non-violent civil disobedience (ie peacefully petition the government for redress of grievances). Additionally as members of a jury when confronted by immoral/unjust laws we can practice the art of jury nullification.

What is jury nullification?

Italicized/bold text was excerpted from the Legal Information Institute @ Cornell Law – http://www.law.cornell.edu – a section titled:

Jury Nullification

A jury’s knowing and deliberate rejection of the evidence or refusal to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about some social issue that is larger than the case itself, or because the result dictated by law is contrary to the jury’s sense of justice, morality, or fairness.

Jury nullification is a discretionary act, and is not a legally sanctioned function of the jury. It is considered to be inconsistent with the jury’s duty to return a verdict based solely on the law and the facts of the case. The jury does not have a right to nulification, and counsel is not permitted to present the concept of jury nullification to the jury. However, jury verdicts of acquittal are unassailable even where the verdict is inconsistent with the weight of the evidence and instruction of the law.

See U.S. v. Thomas, 116 F.3d 606 (2d Cir. 1997).

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/jury_nullification

"I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." ~ Thomas Jefferson

https://constitution.org/jury/pj/fija_history.htm

The time is long past to put oath abdicating civil servants (eg judges, politicians) in their place.

What better time to start than now so get up off your knees and stand like the man/woman you are and demand justice. Your children, grand children and future generations will thank you for their freedom.

Cast off the repressive yoke of a criminal US government.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Consent of the Governed, Due Process and New Math

Uh, jury nullification isn’t a SovCit thing, that’s been around a good while, and while judges and lawyers really don’t like it(for rather obvious reasons) as far as I know it’s entirely legal such that a judge trying to hand out a penalty for it would be opening themselves up for legal troubles of their own.

ECA (profile) says:

Fine Amount: $75.00
Court Costs: $25.00
Court Security Fee: $10.00
Transportation Trust Fund: $37.50
State Police Fund: $7.50
Local Law Enforcement Fund: $7.50
Ambulance Fund: $10.00

I love this. Aint seen this since the time they took State utility control away, and privatized it.

Anyone hear about Natural gas cutting back mining, because they have to much, and the price is dropping to the point they cant make any money??

Waiting to see how much the Judge charges?($25) Everything below the Fine is a Slush fund.. and probably goes into peoples pockets.
I would send it to the State AG, and ask for clarification.. Because MOSt of that is covered by STATE property taxes, and jobs hired by the City.. Law enforcement and security and Local law?? Because if they are charging This, then you get a deduction on your STATE TAXES…

If a charge isnt something you can get rid of on a bill, its PART OF THE BILL/FINE/FEE.. Other wise just pay the fine.

That One Guy (profile) says:

They forgot the 'Because We Can' fund...

Well someone’s been taking notes on the telecom industry, and in particular how they bill people. With how much they padded out that fine I’m surprised they didn’t tack on a few other agencies/individuals while they were at it. Maybe force the defendant to buy lunch for everyone in court, pay for the judge’s gas to drive to the court that day, that sort of thing.

Really guys, if you’re going to become that blatantly corrupt no need to hold back, just go all the way.

Rekrul says:

My property tax bills always say that I have until the end of January and July respectively to pay them. They also say that late payments will incur a penalty for each month that they are late. I once paid my tax bill on February 1st and got charged TWO months’ penalties. When I questioned this, I was told that one penalty was for January and one was for February.

In other words, if you’re even one day late with your payment, it’s an automatic two-month penalty!

IDontRecall (profile) says:

Turn lemons into lemonade

I showed this article to my sister and she came back with this:

Wow. Can’t believe it.
So to turn it on its head – and do this:

Court Costs: $25.00 – put it in legal fees as and claim as tax deduction

Court Security Fee: $10.00 – if a business – should be expense

Transportation Trust Fund: $37.50 –
State Police Fund: $7.50
Local Law Enforcement Fund: $7.50
Ambulance Fund: $10.00

And the remaining four in total would be an allowable charitable donation then … right ?

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