Tuesday, June 19, 2018
News Roundup

Brooksville renews fight for red-light camera citations

BROOKSVILLE — The city of Brooksville is trying to revive its long-dead chances of defending red-light camera cases in court.

But the biggest news for drivers might be what is missing from the city's legal argument.

At least for now, assistant City Attorney Cliff Taylor said, the city will only prosecute traffic citations against drivers who travel straight through intersections — not those making a careless right turn on red.

The reason is the state's 2010 red-light camera law, which says drivers don't necessarily have to come to a stop before turning right on red, but merely make such turns in a "careful and prudent manner."

Over a year ago, then-Hernando County Judge Don Scaglione ruled that this language had led to a variety of interpretations, resulting in enforcement that was arbitrary and unconstitutional.

At first, that meant Scaglione, now a circuit judge, refused to hear those cases. Though he modified his position after it was challenged by Attorney General Pam Bondi, the result was the same:

"We can't win right now," Taylor said of right-on-red cases. "I know what the court's position is, and I want the city's position to be founded on more consistent evidence."

But another legal hurdle remains to prosecuting even drivers caught on camera speeding through intersections after the light turns red: getting still photographs and videos from the cameras admitted as evidence.

That was one objection raised by another county judge, Kurt Hitzemann, in 2012.

Peyton Hyslop, a Brooksville lawyer who has represented numerous ticketed drivers, said photos traditionally have been admitted on the testimony of the person who took them or another witness at the scene.

Automated photographs could be admitted with the testimony of someone who set up the camera, but that is not feasible for every red-light camera case.

In a brief filed last week, Taylor, who has been temporarily named an assistant prosecutor by the State Attorney's Office so he can argue on behalf of the state, wrote that the city follows a protocol for capturing red-light images that has been approved by the state Department of Transportation.

The police officer who reviews the photos for the city can testify that they accurately reflect the intersection depicted, Taylor argued. He cited decisions by other judges in Florida who have admitted red-light camera images.

Taylor hopes his argument will also set an important precedent. Depending on the result, he will ask that it skip the usual next step and be heard by the 5th District Court of Appeal, which covers 13 counties in Central Florida.

He originally filed the motion with two red-light camera cases last week but withdrew it to allow him to refine his presentation. He now plans to attach it to two separate cases scheduled to be heard next month.

Taylor's decision to focus only on straight-through drivers applies only to the cases that come to court, where they are treated as traffic citations.

Unless drivers challenge their citations, they are code enforcement violations that carry a $158 fine.

The city could not provide a percentage of the camera citations that are issued for failing to take proper care while turning right. Previous records of fines at one intersection, however, showed the figure to be about 70 percent.

Judging from the amount of revenue collected from red-light citations, many motorists simply pay the initial fine because they don't realize how easy it is to challenge the cases, especially the ones involving right turns, Hyslop said.

Total revenue collected from red-light cameras has declined in the year since Scaglione's ruling. But unless an ongoing ballot initiative puts an end to the camera program during the coming fiscal year, the city expects to collect about $2.3 million in red-light fines, according to its proposed budget; about $1.8 million of that is paid to either the state or the private contractor that installed the cameras.

"You get a letter in the mail from the city saying you owe money, and you live in Kalamazoo, Mich. — those people don't know anything," Hyslop said. "They just send the money in."

Dan DeWitt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 754-6116.

Comments
For starters: Rays at Astros, with Kiermaier back and an ace-high matchup

For starters: Rays at Astros, with Kiermaier back and an ace-high matchup

After Monday's frustrating loss, the Rays take on the red-hot Astros again tonight in what should be a top-notch pitching matchup between LHP Blake Snell and RHP Justin Verlander."Two really talented pitchers at different points of their careers," Ra...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A valet at this South Tampa Publix will park your car as you shop

A valet at this South Tampa Publix will park your car as you shop

TAMPA — Publix shoppers in South Tampa who hate circling the lot for parking can now toss their keys to a valet.The Publix at Dale Mabry and Neptune started testing a free valet service last week that could expand to more stores. Spokesman Brian West...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Zero Bucs players on NFL top 100 list for 2018

Zero Bucs players on NFL top 100 list for 2018

Just to preface this, the NFL Network's annual countdown of the league's top 100 players is a made-for-TV deal, good for summer offseason conversation but not carrying any huge amount of real significance.Having said that, it's worth noting that for ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hernando County Animal Services searching for pet owners after Brooksville seizure

Hernando County Animal Services searching for pet owners after Brooksville seizure

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Animal Services is looking for the owners of dogs and cats that were seized from a Brooksville home last week.Animal Services, along with the Sheriff’s Office, removed 60 dogs and 23 cats from Carol Allard, 71, after...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sign to report employees not speaking English at doughnut shop creates a stir

Sign to report employees not speaking English at doughnut shop creates a stir

A sign asking customers at a Dunkin’ Donuts store in Baltimore to report employees who were heard not speaking English has set off a controversy.The sign, according tothe Baltimore Sun, would offer coupons to customers who reported workers at a dough...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Updated: 2 hours ago
Safety Harbor fire chief departs: ‘Take pride in the job’

Safety Harbor fire chief departs: ‘Take pride in the job’

SAFETY HARBOR — When Fire Chief Joe Accetta started working at the Safety Harbor Fire Department, Fire Station 53 was a double wide in the middle of a field now home to Mease Countryside Hospital.Now almost four decades of challenges and promotions l...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Deputies search for suspects in rapper XXXTentacion slaying

Deputies search for suspects in rapper XXXTentacion slaying

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — Deputies were searching for suspects Tuesday after troubled rapper-singer XXXTentacion was fatally shot in the driver’s seat of a luxury electric sports car. The 20-year-old rising star, who pronounced his stage name "Ex Ex Ex...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Brooksville man convicted of murder awaits possible death sentence

Brooksville man convicted of murder awaits possible death sentence

BROOKVILLE — Although he was convicted last week on first-degree murder charges, George Mason III will wait nearly two months to find out whether he will face death for the crimes.The fate of the 47-year-old Brooksville man — found guilty by a jury o...
Updated: 3 hours ago
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Updated: 3 hours ago