Gotcha!

Corporations and governments can legally ignore photo tickets in the Valley, while the rest of us are expected to pay up -- or else

The beginning of last year was hectic for Francesca Cisneros, an energetic young businesswoman who was heading up a new mortgage office in Phoenix.

She was working 12-hour-plus days, zooming around town to meetings with her phone earpiece under her long, dark hair and her Blackberry within arm's reach. Cisneros, 33, was a leadfoot in her 2002 Honda Civic. She wasn't reckless — she just had little respect for speed limits. She'd been pulled over once and received photo-enforcement notices in the mail for her speeding in the previous three years, but couldn't seem to break the habit.

And the mailed notices — she trashed them. And they went away.

Three were from Scottsdale; one was from Chandler, where she lived. Mailing a citation to a traffic violator doesn't make it stick in Arizona. Unless a process server delivers it personally, city courts must dismiss the ignored ticket within four months. All four of Cisneros' photo tickets were dismissed this way.

Early 2006 was also an exciting time for the City of Scottsdale, which grabbed national attention for installing speed-enforcement cameras on the Loop 101 freeway in a highly publicized nine-month test program. Six cameras were installed on an eight-mile stretch of the freeway between the 90th Street and Scottsdale Road exits. The city gave speeders a one-month grace period, but warned that as of February 22, anyone caught going more than 10 miles per hour over the 65 mph speed limit would be mailed a citation.

Cisneros paid about as much attention to the new cameras as she had the old ones. Her first recorded violation on the 101 came March 5 at 10:11 a.m., for going 81. Over the next three months, the photo-enforcement system was like a strobe light on Cisneros, flashing her almost every other day as she flitted around town.

Flurries of tickets began arriving in her mailbox. Cisneros stopped checking her mail. And when the box got too stuffed, she got a note saying all her mail was now getting collected at the post office.

She was pegged for 14 violations in March, then nine in April. May was her biggest month, with 33. The cameras caught her speeding four times a day on three days that month. Most of the speeding occurred between 10 a.m. and noon, and between 7 and 9 p.m., when the freeway is less crowded. She eased back during the summer, drawing 14 violations in June and two in July.

The total came to 70 speeding violations for 2006, with 64 on the freeway. Her highest freeway speed was 86 mph. She also got one camera ticket for running a red light.

"There are rules for a reason, I understand that," Cisneros says of photo enforcement. "But it's such an annoying nuisance. The whole thing is about money."

In mid-August, the state Motor Vehicle Division suspended her driver's license. And the police came looking for her one day at her mortgage office when she wasn't there. When she called the number on the card they left, a detective asked her to come down to the station to talk. She did — and was promptly thrown in the clink.

"Like a jackass idiot I went down there without a lawyer," she says.

She was released two days later after promising to appear for her court date.

The number of tickets set a record in Scottsdale, and Cisneros was suddenly all over TV news and the Internet, complete with her mournful mug shot.

A plea deal with prosecutors put her in Scottsdale's city jail again, for another five days. Her driving privileges were restricted, and she was ordered to pay more than $10,000 in fines.

Cisneros, who has a bachelor's degree in marketing, complains that she was devastated by the way the media made her look so foolish. She says she turned down interview requests from Inside Edition and CNN.

"It was horrible — the most embarrassing thing ever," she recalls.

Much of the media's focus then was on how ridiculous it was for anyone to think they could ignore photo tickets.

"She threw them away because she thought nothing would happen to her," KPHO-TV's Jason Barry told his audience on August 11. "She was wrong."

Actually, Cisneros had the right idea — she just took it to an extreme, and she didn't fully understand the game.

Throwing away the tickets works only until the process server shows up. Once the process server delivers the tickets, that's it — they have to be dealt with.

David Pickron, who runs AAA Photo Safety in Mesa, says Cisneros "wasn't cooperatively served," but she was served. Pickron hires part-time process servers to deliver photo tickets for all six Valley cities that use the cameras. His employees knew Cisneros was trying to evade them when they would show up at her door with five or six tickets in hand.

He says one server caught sight of her through a sliding glass door and started banging on it, yelling that he was an officer of the court.

"She ran out of the room" and didn't answer the door, Pickron says.

That was all the process server needed to legally drop off the paperwork at her door.

Had she taken more care to avoid the servers, her story might have turned out differently.

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12 comments
dmsbayne
dmsbayne

Hers the deal, It is obvious that These cams are only for lining the pockets of those who are getting kick backs from the money made, ie. Scottesdale $800:000 in one year. If that is the case then fire two copes for every cam since we don't need them and they can eat their doughnuts at home. But most important is that driving should now be a right and to allow the MVD to dictate weather or not I can drive myself or a family member to the emergency room or to work or to get food for the babies is un American. Any one who believes that we shouldn't have the right to drive should get out of the USA. Its Big Brother just wanting to be in our business because its a drug to them. Do you realy think that those pics just go away. Does NSA mean anything. Get 30 or 40 of your friends with masks and coverd lic plates and all of you speed through a cam. Be safe though, and let the light show begin

forester74
forester74

I keep reading that after 120 days it is invalid.  And besides the city of Show Low is most likely not going to be connected with the DMV.  They only know the address associated with your vehicle.  After 4 months you are off the hook.

Seeley3
Seeley3

i need help i am moving to show low az. i was there 5 min. got to camera tickets .sent to me in new jersey. what do i do. i will eventually have to apply for az. licensce in 6 months.

greenspite
greenspite

Does anyone know if Arizona hires out of state process servers to go after arizona photo speeding tickets? I live in Florida, and got the photo ticket in Paradise Valley?

DavidKnows
DavidKnows

I don't understand, the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have the political rights of people, so why don't they have the same legal consequences? Under the Citizens United decision they should be liable. Thank you, I just earned Arzona $5 million annually.

Jason Trenkler
Jason Trenkler

The whole thing is garbage, thank goodness that DPS is no longer using the photo radar vans.

goldnugg
goldnugg

I KNOW YOU CAN BE LEGALLY SERVED BY MAIL NOW BUT CAN IT BE LEGAL TO A MAIL BOX AT A AUXERLLY POST OFFICE???

beaner
beaner

Fuck the photo radar and west Mcdowell courts and lets not forget Judge Nap....ASSHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLE

Anonymous
Anonymous

Honestly, I don't think photo enforcement is a violation of an individual's rights. But the fact that you get charged $200+ with no warning notice sent makes it unfair in my opinion. They should send a warning notice for the first offense, and then like a $30 ticket on repeat offenses at the same location. That seems a lot more fair and would deter speeding, especially since a person charged would by then be surely aware of the speed limit.

Judy
Judy

Believe it or not, I was recently ticketed with photo radar on FLW while I was going 45 mph (the speed limit). The ticket I received said I was going 78 mph. I went to court, told the truth and paid $270.00 for my trouble of informing them that the machines are malfunctioning. I wonder, is this happening to anyone else?

Judy

Patti
Patti

I think the photo enforcement is a crock. It allows Scottsdale PD and DPS to be lazy in my opinion.

What type of analysis was done regarding the accidents on this particular stretch? Did the concept of vehicles going TOO slow and merging on the freeway play a role? And what about the concept of vehicles "cutting" over going too slow? All of these and other issues, I've experienced on this stretch of freeway and because of my alertness, was able to avoid the accident while the offending driver gets upset because I've honked my horn.

And what about the flashes? I can tell you, many of times, I've seen the flash, which has distracted my eyes from the road briefly, to make sure it wasn't me. That flash can be blinding at night.

I understand completely the concept of speed limits, however, the ONLY individuals affected by this photo radar are the ones that go more than 10 miles over the speed limit. NOTHING is done regarding those that can't even drive the speed limit or those that can't abide by any of the other road laws.

Am I angry? Yes! And yes, I was "caught" but the thing that gets me is the wording I received when I went to court to explain things. I can assure you, had there been an officer, one of the tickets would not be issued and the fact that the photo radar has a +/- 1 MPH accuracy issue and my "picture" indicated 76 MPH vs the 75 MPH, it seems to me, that +/- 1 MPH should be taken into consideration and when it's as close as mine was, to be quite honest, yes that would should have been dismissed, especially with the time of day, the amount of traffic and so forth.

To allow the corporate world to get off scott free while individuals, such as myself, be held accountable is unfair practice.

Billy
Billy

Yeah, just don't pay it... it goes away.

 
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