Judge Rules Red Light Cameras Are Not Legal

In a ruling that could have implications for other cities, a circuit court judge ruled Monday morning that the city of Aventura, Florida cannot use cameras to catch red-light runners.  However, it did not file an injunction ordering the city to stop using the cameras. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by a motorist who argued that only the state Legislature can pass laws regarding traffic violations. Cities have gotten around the lack of state authorization by citing red-light runners with a code violation, rather than a traffic ticket.

The city can appeal the ruling by Circuit Court Judge Jerald Bagley, and the judge's decision has no bearing on other cities nor did it invalid the constitutionality of red-light programs. But if it stays in force, the ruling could set a legal precedent that could be used in suits against red-light camera programs in other cities.

Other South Florida cities have similar ways to catch speeders and beef up city revenues, so the ruling against the cameras could open the flood gates to challenges. Cities, like Aventura, Miami Beach, Pembroke Pines and others, have used cameras to cite red-light runners with a code violation, instead of a traffic violation. Lusskin argued that was merely a way of circumventing the state law and that cities could only issue tickets to red-light runners if an officer is present.

In his ruling Monday morning, Bagley sided with Lusskin and granted his motion for summary judgment against Aventura.

The lawyer representing Aventura city attorney Michael S. Popok said that the judge's ruling only addressed whether or not cities can issue fines based on the red-light cameras - and not the presence of the cameras themselves or the program. The state charter says that cities have the power to use ``security devices'' to ``regulate'' what occurs on the roadways, and the issue, according to Popok, is whether or not the word ``regulate'' gives cities the authority to issue fines.

The judge did not issue an injunction against the program as part of his ruling, so it can continue to operate while the city decides whether or not to file an appeal.