The fight for red light supremacy has just begun.
A circuit judge ruled Monday that Aventura's red light camera program was unconstitutional because the city issued code violations and not traffic violations to motorists who ran a red light.
While only the State can establish driving laws, the cities who installed the lights tried to get around that by calling them violations.
Judge Jerald Bagley, while not specifically mentioning that, seemed to say that calling it a code violation makes no difference. He added that an officer should be there to witness the traffic infraction.
“Tickets should be issued,” said Judge Bagley, “by a law enforcement officer who has observed the actions of the part of the alleged violator running a red light.”
Other South Florida cities have similar ways to catch speeders and beef up city revenues, so the ruling against the cameras could open the flood gates to challenges.
Places like Bal Harbour and Miami Beach just installed them, and places like Hallandale Beach, Homestead, Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale and Pembroke Pines have had them for awhile
The cameras bring in scores of citations and millions of dollars, not only for the cities but for private companies.
In most cases, the cameras are free, installed in Aventura's case by an Arizona company that monitorsthe cameras from out of state and takes a cut of the haul.
"And from my perspective,” said traffic attorney Bret Russkin, “perhaps I'm wrong about that - but that just reeks of impropriety. A private company should not be getting a cut of virtually every ticket in a program that is allegedly about safety on the road."
Russkin was celebrating his court victory last night with some pizza as he fielded calls from reporters across the country. The relatively inexperienced lawyer founded The Ticket Cricket four years ago just as he passed the bar. But he is the lawyer behind the big “David vs Goliath” court victory, beating the City of Aventura, the 500-lawyer firm it hired, the camera manufacturers, and every city that has them.
He said he was not intimidated. "I was a little nervous about it,” he said, “if for no other reason that there was so much money riding on this issue."
Money is already on the line in Hallandale Beach as a result of the suit
Aventura has already said it will appeal the ruling.