New Florida red-light camera law changes how motorists contest tickets

Approaching an intersection as the light turns yellow always requires a split-second decision. Is there enough time to make it through the light or not? The length of the yellow may differ between intersections and cities, such as Daytona Beach and Tampa. In some cases, it is more dangerous to slam on the brakes and stop especially on fast moving roads.

If the light turns red before your vehicle clears the intersection, it could mean a red-light camera citation. An investigation by a Tampa CBS news affiliate WTSP found that cities and counties across the state have actually shortened the length of yellow lights, which has increased the number of red-light camera violations. Florida made $100 million from red-light fines last year and that number is set to increase to $120 million this year.

A new Florida law passed by both houses of the legislature, but awaiting signature by the governor would allow citizens the ability to request an administrative hearing to challenge a red-light camera ticket. The law requires communities that issue red-light camera traffic citations to put in place a structure where a driver can contest the ticket within 60 days of issuance. The language of the law does not detail who must conduct hearings or any required training for administrative judges.

Effectiveness Of The Challenge Process Questioned

Critics of the law complain that it will be difficult to have a ticket dismissed. The appearance of impartiality exists because the city issuing the citation and collecting the fine would run the hearing.

Those who support the law say that the law gives individuals a fair opportunity to challenge a ticket if they did not in fact run a red light. The new rule will go into effect on July 1 if Governor Scott approves HB7125.

City and county officials are thus scrambling to figure out ordinances that put in place review boards. For instance, the City of Clearwater plans to use the Municipal Code Enforcement Board to decide appeals. This board usually reviews whether fines are warranted when homeowners let their properties fall into disrepair, but will also be tasked with determining whether a motorist ran a red light. The board would review video footage at a hearing.

Current review process

Red-light cameras are in use across much of Florida including, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. A red-light traffic violation carries a $158 fine.

Currently, if a motorist wants to appeal, he or she must not pay the fine and wait for the city or county to issue a uniform traffic citation. Then the individual can request a hearing in front of a judge in traffic court. Losing a traffic court hearing, however, results in a higher fine and the possibility of points added to a driving record.

If you receive a red-light citation, you can go online and review the ticket and video. When it appears that the light was still yellow as you were entering the intersection, contact a Florida traffic violation attorney who can explain your rights to challenge the citation and assist you through the process.