Monday, February 2, 2015

Prosecution of red light camera tickets in Montgomery County

I recently received a red light camera ticket in Montgomery County and thought that I would share my experience. Repeating what is generally in the notice that the registered owner receives, you cannot get points and the ticket cannot be used to increase your insurance rates. The tickets are annoying and somewhat expensive. The suggested charge was $75 for my alleged failure to stop for a red light.

I sent in the form and requested a trial. On the trial date I had a conflict. They were very civilized about it and I contacted the Rockville city Police Department by telephone and they told me they would postpone the case. Initially I thought I needed to file a continuance in the District Court which is normal but the District Court doesn't seem to accept those motions.

Regardless, I received a new trial date.

In preparing for your trial you should check your ticket carefully. It will give you the ability to review full-color images and a moving video at a website listed on the top right part of your ticket. Put in the citation number and the pin number and you can watch your actions in living color. In my case the video clearly showed me stopping past a faded white line. There was no question that my vehicle came to a complete stop. Not a rolling stop or a California stop.

Armed with this knowledge I went to court.

When you get the court representatives from the city of Rockville will be present prosecuting the case. They will have a computer and a large video screen. They will have the videos that were recorded available to play for the court. Apparently no matter how you plead the judge wants to see the video to determine the extent of your guilt. Frankly, everybody ran the red light quite clearly. Most people slow down significantly but absolutely nobody stopped. Based on the situation the court usually reduced the fine but did add court costs. Usually people got out of there spending about $65 total rather than $75. The docket took about 1 1/2 hours so it might not be worth your time. I did not see a single acquittal.

Onto my personal case. I will say they ran the docket in alphabetical order and they use the person's first name. Thomas is pretty far down the alphabet so I was able to watch what was happening with everybody else. I appear in court for a living so my approach was somewhat different.

Initially I argued that the citation they mailed me was fatally defective because it did not comply with the language required by the transportation article. The judge did not consider that argument very long and rejected it.

Thereafter we went through the video. It was quite clear that the stop line was not "clearly marked" as required by the statute. It was also clear that I went over the stop mark before coming to a full stop. I argued to the court that the line was not properly painted and more strongly argued that obviously my vehicle did come to a complete stop. The court took the argument well and did not impose a fine upon me, it still imposed $22.50 in court costs.

Not sure if it's worth going back if something like this happens again. It bothers me somewhat that I received a ticket from a machine that a police officer would not have written. I received a ticket for a hypertechnical violation.  It is also somewhat bothersome that the ticket was issued for an event that occurred in almost Gaithersburg and the trial was held in Silver Spring. I don't know why the trial would not be held in Rockville.

I can't imagine the upside of having the services of an attorney in a case of this nature. I think that I did better because the facts were on my side, not so much the law.