Speed Cameras: Public Safety or Public Nuisance?

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On October 1st, the City of Baltimore installed new speed cameras in 51 locations city wide.  Vehicles caught exceeding the speed limit by 12 miles per hour or more will be sent warning notices for the first full month after installation of the speed cameras.  On November 1st, violators will be issued speeding tickets accompanied by $40 fines.  People receiving tickets will not be at risk of having points issued against their licenses, and will have the right to request a hearing in the Baltimore City District Court. 

The trend toward the use of cameras to enforce traffic laws has gained momentum in Maryland over the past several years.  Red light cameras have been installed in a number of locations across the state for quite some time.  Speed cameras have been in use in Montgomerty County since 2007.  Like Baltimore City, Baltimore and Frederick Counties installed speed cameras on October 1st. 

 

Proponents for the use of cameras in enforcing traffic laws argue that the measures are necessary to improve public safety.  The overall results of the red light camera program have yielded a steady decline in violations in locations where the cameras are installed.  However, the reason for the drop in tickets issued for red light violations may be a result of drivers learning of and avoiding intersections where cameras are present.  The more plausible and likely explanation for the installation of red light and speed cameras is the potential to generate new revenue.  Baltimore City expects to collect $7.1 million in fines in 2010 from the newly installed speed cameras.  Fines from the speed cameras used in Montgomery County have generated $18 million in fines since 2007. 

I am opposed to the use of cameras in enforcement of traffic laws because it appears to lessen the burden of proof needed to assess penalties.  The evidence used in all traffic camera cases are photographs of a person's car committing a traffic violation.  The person that ultimately is punished in these cases is the owner of the vehicle.  My issue with this process is that car owners are issued fines without any evidence that they personally were operating their vehicle at the time of the violation.  The violator could be any number of people who are driving the vehicle with the permission of the car owner.  In many cases, a car owner can essentially be punished for violations that they did not commit, and I believe that is manifestly unjust. 

If you have been issued a traffic citation for any reason and believe that the charges against you are erroneous, contact Portner & Shure.  Our attorneys have many years of experience practicing criminal defense in Maryland, Virginia and the DIstrict of Columbia, and believe in providing aggressive representation to all of their clients. 

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