Citing a Broward County 4
th District Court of Appeals decision in October 2014 in which the Court
held that the manner in which the City of Hollywood issued traffic citations
in partnership with a private vendor was improper, Palm Beach County Attorney
Denise Neiman recently urged Commissioners to discontinue their traffic
camera operations on County roads.
Why? Because, Nieman said, the County uses the exact same vendor, and the
exact same technology, in the exact same way.
As of November 18
th, 2014, the County will no longer issue tickets from their traffic cameras
for at least a year, after County Commissioners voted not to renew an
expiring contract with American Traffic Solutions (ATS). ATS is the traffic
camera vendor at the heart of a growing legal battle over the controversial
practice of cities and municipalities like Hollywood and Palm Beach County
snapping photos of drivers as they ignore red lights, as they drive through
In addition to Hollywood, many other cities within our county also contract
with ALS to use their cameras to issue traffic citations. Last Thursday,
City of West Palm Beach officials confirmed they too are no longer issuing
traffic citations to red light violators caught using the ALS cameras
on its streets. Their decision is pending the outcome of a potential appeal
to a higher court, or a response from the Florida legislature, following
last month's 4
th DCA's decision to strike down the use and manner by which Hollywood
and ALS partnered to issue citations (
City of Hollywood v. Eric Arem ).
Why this is a loss - but not a final defeat – to traffic cameras
ALS provides an attractive product and revenue-generator to cities and
municipalities. The private company offers to install and maintain its
camera equipment at intersections, and provides access to software that
allows delegated Traffic Enforcement Officers to review and "approve"
photos of potential violators that the ALS system gathers for review.
When approved, ALS will send out the traffic citation to the violator,
and everyone makes money at the expense of the unwitting drivers.
Proponents proclaim that traffic cameras raise much needed revenue, deter
violators, and make roads safer. Opponents argue that the tactic is intrusive
But the 4
th DCA addressed neither of those concerns. Instead, the Court asserted that
the citations were improper because the process by which the citation
is served did not meet what they called the "plain requirements"
of Florida Statute § 316.650(3)(c) and § 316.640(5)(a). These
laws allow only Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) and Traffic Enforcement
Offices (TEO) to make the determination that a particular traffic violation
occurred. Further, the Statues stipulate the requirements an officer must
meet to be considered qualified as either a LEO or TEO, and the citation
must be sent by a legally authorized authority of the city or municipality
issuing the citation.
The problem for the City of Hollywood, the Court found, is that as a private,
for-profit company operating out of Arizona, TLS does not have legal authority
neither to make a determination on what constitutes a violation, or to
issue any citations for violations caught on the company's cameras
within a jurisdiction that it is not legally qualified to act as an agent
under Florida law.
Is this the end of the traffic camera?
Probably not. Traffic cameras are not themselves illegal; in fact, Florida
Statute § 316.008(8)(a), also known as the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety
Program, enacted in 2011, specifically authorizes cities and municipalities
to use traffic cameras to catch red light violators. The 4
th DCA has only found the means by which the City of Hollywood contracted
out most of the work and technology involved in catching red light violators
to be unlawful (and, by extension, any other city or municipality that
contracts with TLS to provide a similar service).
Presumably, cities and municipalities only need to find a way to make the
investment into the equipment and technology required to implement a traffic
camera program, and issue the citations using an internal control process.
Or they must find a way to work alongside companies like TLS within the
legal framework of guiding Florida Statutes.
However, the traffic cameras may have some legal challenges ahead that
similar courts or the Legislature may eventually need to address.
In the meantime, the 4
th DCA opinion has cleared the way for potentially hundreds or thousands
of South Floridians to bring suits against cities and municipalities for
the wrongful prosecution and fine payments based on improperly and illegally
issued red light traffic citations. And they will.