Ever gotten a traffic-cam ticket? So has this guy: That Time I Turned a Routine Traffic Ticket into the Constitutional Trial of the Century. Excerpt:
We proceeded to trial. The city produced one witness, the police officer who had signed the affidavit. On direct examination, he explained how the traffic camera system works. A corporation in another state called American Traffic Solutions operates the camera system, chooses the photographs on which to predicate enforcement, recommends the Montgomery police department initiate an action against a vehicle’s owner, and is paid for its work.
On cross-examination, I established that:
- He was not present at the time of the alleged violation.
- He has no photographic evidence of the driver.
- There were no witnesses.
- He does not know where Adam MacLeod was at the time of the alleged violation.
And so on. I then asked the question one is taught never to ask on cross—the last one. “So, you signed an affidavit under the pains and penalties of perjury alleging probable cause to believe that Adam MacLeod committed a violation of traffic laws without any evidence that was so?”
Without hesitating he answered, “Yes.” This surprised both of us. It also surprised the judge, who looked up from his desk for the first time. A police officer had just testified under oath that he perjured himself in service to a city government and a mysterious, far-away corporation whose officers probably earn many times his salary.
The city then rested its case. I renewed my motion to dismiss, which the judge immediately granted.
I’m not sure I’d call this the Constitutional trial of the century, especially given that the century is only sixteen years old; but it does set a very interesting precedent, and provides a template for anyone caught in one of these traffic-cam scams.
Note the key thing on which the case turns: The traffic-cam citation appears to have been issued to a vehicle. There was no attempt to establish that the vehicle’s registered owner was in fact the person that committed the infraction; in any sane system, Mr. MacLeod’s establishing that he was in a faculty meeting miles away at the time of the infraction should have resulted in an immediate dismissal.
Instead, read the entire article and you’ll see the laughable circumlocutions the court went to to try to preserve their case – and the traffic-cam system.
We have stoplight-mounted traffic cams here in the Denver area, too. It’s a horrible system that should be removed, but one suspects it will take some more cases like this one to convince cities to remove that revenue stream.