Gotcha!

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

No one knows that better than a lawyer, which is why Phoenix attorney Craig Gillespie decided to ask Susan Kayler for help after he got zapped. In October 2005, the pair persuaded Maricopa Superior Court Judge Margaret Downie to toss Gillespie's ticket on a technicality.

Their argument hinged on the fact that citations are issued before any connection is made between the driver and the owner of the vehicle. State law requires an officer to certify there are "reasonable grounds" to believe the person listed on the ticket committed the infraction. But with a photo ticket, the officer's signature is a computer-generated image. The officer is real, but he or she had nothing to do with policing the violation.

At Redflex and other photo-enforcement companies, clerks use the license plate in the photo to look up the address of the vehicle's registered owner. But they don't have access to MVD photos, so no positive ID is made before a citation is sent out.

Mike Maas
Francesca Cisneros achieved infamy last year after getting 70 photo-enforcement tickets.
Giulio Sciorio
Francesca Cisneros achieved infamy last year after getting 70 photo-enforcement tickets.

"There is no human involvement in the certification process whatsoever," Downie's ruling states, adding that the procedure clearly violates Arizona law.

While this seems like a bombshell that could overturn the whole photo-enforcement system, the appeal involved the facts of one case and is not considered a precedent-setter by the city courts.

Scottsdale prosecutor Caron Close says that well before the Gillespie case, Redflex clerks compared basic MVD information about a person — like gender, height, weight and hair color. They didn't always note for the legal record that such a comparison was made, though, and that's where prosecutors ran into trouble, she says. They've since corrected that problem.

Still, none of the cities compares the person in the violation photo with a driver's license photo before the citation is issued.

In Chandler, for instance, Officer Gunter says he makes no comparison at all. If the person and license plate are clearly pictured, he'll have the citation sent out. The vehicle owner, if he was not the driver, then must sort it all out.

Gillespie and Kayler believe it's possible to win more appeals based on the "no human involvement" premise. If the company can't establish how it tried to link the vehicle and driver, "it's the exact same argument, and a winner," Gillespie says.

The message here is that if you are willing to pay a lawyer to appeal your case — and you can get it heard by a judge like Downie, considered soft on photo enforcement — you could get your violation dismissed. But how many of us have the time and money to go all the way over a $185 ticket?

An appeal isn't always necessary. Even drivers with no real excuse and no defense can beat the ticket, or at least get its impact mitigated, at a city court hearing.

After Mesa City Councilman Mike Whalen got flashed while running a red light at Stapley and University drives in October, he chose to fight the system. The first thing he did, though, was to promptly mail in the waiver of his right to service.

"It would have been embarrassing to get served at a City Council meeting," he says.

His explanation to the judge at a recent hearing was that he thought he was already in the intersection when the light turned red, so he kept on going. He blames a "little old man" in a car in front of him who slowed down.

Whalen, a former police officer and assistant police chief in Mesa until 1999, knows how the camera system works. If the magnetic sensors under the road detect your vehicle past the imaginary curb-corner-to-curb-corner intersection lines as much as a millisecond after the light turns red, the camera flashes. He knew it was probably a valid violation.

Whalen says an officer he knew told him, "'You're toast on this — sure you don't want to go to defensive driving school?' I said, 'No, you know, I'm going to roll the dice.' So I rolled the dice, and I lost."

Yes, and no. Whalen was ordered to attend Traffic Survival School, an excruciating ultra-basic driving class for losers who get red-light tickets and DUIs. But the judge suspended his fine of $185.

Whalen says he doesn't think the judge gave him any special treatment. "I don't even think he knew who I was," he says.

Mesa issued another red-light camera ticket in the last few months to former Arizona U.S. Attorney Mel McDonald. He rolled the dice with a hearing at roughly the same time as Whalen, though he had no defense.

"I went because I wanted to make sure the equipment was operable and tested and everything else," McDonald says, which means he was looking to beat the charge on a technicality. "It's my own policy that I will never, without a hearing, just walk in and write them a check. I want to challenge them."

McDonald lost. He's appealing his case in Superior Court.


Traffic cameras slow vehicles down. Researchers say they reduce serious injury crashes.

A draft report to Scottsdale by Simon Washington, an Arizona State University professor, states that the eight-month Loop 101 speed camera program slowed average speeds from about 74 to 64 mph. When the cameras shut down in late October, the number of motorists going faster than 76 mph jumped from 130 to 1,260 per day, per camera, as measured by pavement sensors.

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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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