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City of Spokane Sued over “Invalid” Red-Light Tickets

Spokane sued over red light camera infractions
Spokane sued over red light camera infractions (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

This could be a precedent setting case not just in Washington, but across the region.

The city has been hit with a class-action lawsuit, which many said was not unexpected.

Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque ruled in 2011 that the tickets, according to law, must be physically signed in the State of Washington to be valid.   The cameras being used in Spokane are owned by a company in Arizona.  An agreement between the city and the company allows an official to review camera footage and “sign off” on the infraction.

Spokane, like many cities,  has cameras that trigger a series of photographs when a vehicle has entered and intersection and the light turns red, hence the name, “red light ticket.”    Numerous cities have been fighting them,  this case will only add to the efforts to get them banned.   These are different from speed cameras, that register the speed of a vehicle triggered by radar readings.   Those are used in far fewer areas than red light cameras.

   Monday,   a class-action lawsuit was filed in Spokane asks for fees to be paid back to motorists who received such infractions.  The suit asks that all recipients of a red light ticket issued between November 1st, 2008 and June 20, 2011 to receive $124.00 from the city,  PLUS have the city pay collection fees or costs associated with attempts to collect the fine.

These tickets have been met with stiff resistance here and across the country for the following reasons:

  • Only the vehicle license plate appears in photo.   Somebody else could have been driving your car, but YOU get hit with the citation.
  • While these don’t count as “points” against your license, and insurance, they do carry a rather stiff penalty,  well over $100.
  • Citizens view them as entrapment and question the validity and accuracy of the camera equipment.

According to Callahan Law online, a leading traffic-citation authority,  failure to respond to such an infraction can result in eventual fines and loss of license.

However, numerous cities, including Spokane, have had the law challenged, and it’s been struck down.    There was no word from Spokane authorities as to how they respond to the Class Action suit, and there’s no idea of how much revenue losing such a suit would cost the city.

Such cameras are NOT used in Kennewick,  Pasco or Richland.  A search of the website shows not a lot of SE Washington communities use them.    Kennewick officials bantered around the idea in 2013, but due to public resistance, and valid arguments from the police department, it was not enacted.  Cost was another factor – too expensive.   Kennewick police also said such cameras take away officer judgement and expertise.   Officials can judge when a vehicle was legitimately in the intersection when the light turned red but were not speeding or committing an infraction.

Plus, Kennewick police said despite population growth,  traffic issues have not grown considerably in the city.

If this suit is successful, it could trigger a wave of efforts to recoup money to motorists for “invalid” infractions across the country.

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