Barely three weeks ago, the Florida Supreme Court delivered yet another legal blow to the highly controversial red-light cameras that have spawned like love bugs across the Sunshine State in recent years. The highest court in the state refused to reconsider a judgment that Hollywood's cameras are illegal.
But that hasn't stopped one Miami-Dade town from jump-starting its own red-light program. The Village of Pinecrest recently announced it'll add cameras at four intersections in the affluent South Dade community.
"Our foremost goal is to increase safety by reducing violations and crashes," Village Manager Yocelyn Galiano Gomez says in a news release. "And we know the presence of the systems will serve as a deterrent for most drivers."
Beginning Monday, cameras at intersections along South Dixie Highway at SW 104th, 112th, 124th, and 128th Streets will "capture vehicle data via video and hi-resolution images" of cars that "enter the intersection after the signal turns red." The program will allow for a one-month warning period, when drivers found in violation will receive only written warnings, but beginning June 10, fines of $158 will be issued to violators.
"The warning period gives drivers in the Village time to adjust to the program," Galiano Gomez says.
Since red-light camera programs first appeared in Florida in 2010, they've regularly drawn ire from motorists who think the remote ticketing is unfair; they've also been the subject of numerous lawsuits and often been found unconstitutional.
The latest ruling against the devices came April 15. An appeals court had earlier ruled the City of Hollywood's 18-camera program was illegal, and the Florida Supreme Court refused to hear the city's appeal to that case. The decision leaves thousands of motorists clamoring for refunds.
Next month, a lawsuit against Miami-Dade County's program is scheduled to be heard, and a federal class-action suit that could see the return of millions in fines was filed last October.
But the legal challenges to the programs have mostly been centered on municipalities' use of a third party, the Arizona-based company American Traffic Solutions, to operate the cameras and deliver the tickets — effectively an outsourcing of local law enforcement. Pinecrest's new program appears to skirt that potential legal roadblock by having a Pinecrest Police officer review the videos before sending out tickets. The officer, the village says, will "have sole discretion to determine whether a violation occurred."
The village also says points will not be added to the records of drivers caught with the cameras. "If a red-light-running violation is issued directly by a law enforcement officer, the Miami-Dade County fine is $277, and four points are added," Galiano Gomez says.