From the rate at which Florida cities are installing red light cameras, one would assume that Florida is a hot bed of red light runners colliding with one another incessantly. Fortunately, this is not the case – in fact, a recent study revealed that only two to three percent of crashes in the state of Florida are linked to drivers running red lights.
These cameras that are appearing in intersections all across the state, have proven themselves to be more detrimental than beneficial to the general public with rear end collisions up, on average, almost 44% since their installation in many counties. As more and more city councils and mayors vote to install these cameras, citizens are becoming increasingly concerned that not only are these cameras frivolous but they are also a blatant violation of basic constitutional rights that we all enjoy as Americans. When Thomas Filippone received a $158.00 ticket in the mail for running a red light almost six weeks earlier, he put his law degree to work for himself and soon challenged the constitutionality of the ticket, claiming it violated his right to due process of law as provided for him by the fifth and fourteenth amendment.
When an infraction is issued based off of the evidence from a red light camera, it does not allow for a hearing involving the charging agency and the defendant, in this case Mr. Filippone, nor does it call for the burden of proof to fall to the prosecution and instead it falls to the defendant. After several court proceedings, Pasco county Judge, Anne Wansboro, ruled in favor of the defense, Filippone, stating that the cameras and their follow up procedure for issuing a ticket “impermissibly shifts the burden of proof to the defendant and therefore does not afford due process and is unconstitutional to the extent that due process is not provided”.
While some argue that these devices have been implemented for a greater good, many citizens contest these cameras, which are owned, operated and installed by for-profit companies, are merely cash cows operating under the guise of safety. In an effort to bolster the legality of the cameras, the state of Florida recently added chapters to their Uniform Traffic Laws, specifically statutes 316, 318, 321 and 322, permitting the use of these cameras. That being said, it still remains to be seen just how long Florida residents will tolerate these new forms of law enforcement or before they are deemed unconstitutional.