Monday, December 11, 2017

Orlando appealing red light camera court ruling

TALLAHASSEE — Millions in fines collected from motorists caught by red light cameras across Florida could be at stake as the result of a new appeal to the state Supreme Court, a lawyer for the city of Orlando said Tuesday.

Orlando is asking the justices to reverse an appellate court ruling that says red light camera fines were illegal for violations that occurred before the state passed a law allowing the cameras in 2010.

The case will not affect red light violations caught on camera after the law went into effect, but cities that began enforcement before then could wind up having to refund fines if Orlando loses the appeal, said David King, a lawyer for the city.

"We're talking about millions of dollars around the state for sure," King said.

A three-judge panel of 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach said Orlando's red light camera ordinance conflicted with state traffic laws before they were changed to allow the cameras.

The decision on July 6 conflicts with a prior ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami. That 2-1 opinion upheld red light camera fines collected in Aventura before the new law was passed.

Orlando's appeal was filed Friday and the Supreme Court designated it as a high-profile case on Monday.

The appeal stems from a lawsuit filed by Michael Udowychenko, who was ordered to pay $155 — a $125 fine and $30 administrative fee — after a camera recorded his vehicle running a red light in May 2009.

King said if the Supreme Court sides with Udowychenko, the city would have to refund his payment.

It would take additional litigation, though, before any other motorists could get their red light camera fines back, he said.

That's because Circuit Judge Frederick J. Lauten rejected Udowychenko's request for class action certification although he did rule that his fine was illegal. The 5th District upheld Lauten's ruling on the latter point, but Udowychenko did not appeal the class action decision.

King said he expects a new class action case to be filed if the Supreme Court rejects Orlando's appeal.

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