Big Brother Gets Red Light

Back in July, I mentioned in a post here about the Stop On Red (aka “Photo Cop”) program that was going into effect at intersections around Minneapolis.

The program was designed to take photos of people running red lights. The photo, along with a citation, would be mailed to the address of the person to whom the car is registered. In theory this would cut down on red-light runners and thus accidents.

At the time, people seemed concerned only with what would happen if you loaned your car to another driver and they ran a light but you got the ticket. Apprently lots of people have contested their tickets due to this shift of the burden of proof. It looks like the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota won a major decision yesterday when a Hennepin County judge halted the program, saying it is unconstitutional, citing that ticket recipients received less due process than the state statute and courts offer because of the presumption that the owner of the car was the driver.

According to the Strib article on the topic, the Photo Cop program has generated about $1 million in the first six months (the tickets are $142 each!), and more than 26,000 people have received tickets under the program. Refunds to all those people may require further legal action.

4 Comments so far

  1. Tipper (unregistered) on March 16th, 2006 @ 11:13 pm

    By the court’s reasoning, shouldn’t parking tickets unconstitutional? The owner of the car gets ticketed regardless of who parked the car, and the burden is on the vehicle owner to prove that he/she didn’t do whatever the officer said they did.

    What kills me is that the guy who started the whole thing won’t name the “other” person who was driving; for all we know, it’s just an elaborate ruse to get out of a well-given ticket. I think that anyone dumb enough to lend their car to someone who runs red lights deserves to get fined, anyway.

  2. no (unregistered) on March 17th, 2006 @ 3:20 pm

    First off, don’t assume the program works as designed. Secondly, I don’t believe in replacing humans with robots when the law in concerned. Law is necessary to maintain order, but interpretation and flexibility of the law is necessary to maintain freedom with law. How the hell are you supposed to know if your friend is going to accidently (or not) run a red light? I know, of course, you answer is that you’d “never lend out your car”, great friend.

    I got one of those damn tickets because I took a right turn on a red, and I couldn’t fight it. They basically told me to give up and they’d just try and reduce it. I don’t care if it’s reduced, the strike on my insurance is far worse. ‘Well-given’ my ass. A cop never would’ve given me a ticket in my situation. Every one of us is a criminal under some law or another, do you really want it all automated?

  3. Lex (unregistered) on March 18th, 2006 @ 8:45 am

    Tipper, your conclusion is a bit off. A parking ticket isn’t analogous to these citations.

    The parking ticket is placed on the vehicle, because it is the vehicle that is illegally parked. The burden is on whoever parked the car to either pay it or contest it. It is only if the ticket isn’t paid, the responsibility reverts to the car’s owner because that is the only tie to the car the city has.

    However, the piece you’re overlooking is that with a parking ticket, you are able to appear in court to present your case and have a possibility of the fine not being assessed. With the Photo Cop program, there are two key pieces of due process skipped. Ownership of the car is one, but assessing the fine without an opportunity to contest it is another.

    What kills me about your comments, Tipper, is that you always assume the worst about people. First it’s customer service people who complain about demanding customers aren’t doing their jobs, now someone who contests a ticket is trying to dodge the fine. A state judge thought it was enough to declare it unconstitutional, so I’m thinking there’s information that wasn’t reported in the article that substantiates it.

  4. Tipper (unregistered) on March 18th, 2006 @ 10:47 am

    Ownership of the car is one, but assessing the fine without an opportunity to contest it is another.

    I haven’t been able to find any information about people who receive those tickets being absolutely unable to contest it. If you have information about that (other than what’s in newspaper articles, if we’re assuming they’re lacking), please pass it on. The website you point to says that if someone else was driving, you should give the cops THEIR name and they’ll get the ticket, not you. So, somewhere, there’s a process in place to make sure the right person is ticketed.

    I tend to think that I’m standing up for those who are getting picked on (to put it one way). Simply because I can see the other side doesn’t mean I only see the worst in people.

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