Wednesday, September 19, 2018
News Roundup

Florida Supreme Court: Early red-light cameras were illegal

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that more than a dozen local governments — including several in the Tampa Bay area — illegally established red-light camera programs by installing the devices prior to the Legislature approving them in 2010.

Though some lawyers involved in red-light camera litigation believe the ruling should result in millions of dollars in refund checks, they cautioned that motorists shouldn't expect that to happen without a fight.

"There will absolutely have to be litigation filed," said Luke Lirot, a Clearwater lawyer whose firm represents ticketed drivers. "It wouldn't be a difficult court order to get based on this Supreme Court precedent, but absent a court order, I don't see any municipality voluntarily giving back a dime of that money."

In the Tampa Bay area, Hillsborough County, Temple Terrace, Brooksville and Port Richey used red-light cameras before the Legislature approved their usage statewide with a law that took effect July 1, 2010.

The court ruled 5-2 Thursday that local governments were not allowed to enact their own traffic enforcement ordinances at the time because it conflicted with the state's uniform traffic code. But the court didn't order a refund of fines collected and the dispute is expected to continue.

Officials with local governments affected by the ruling said they were reviewing it. The fines collected during that time are in the millions of dollars.

Temple Terrace installed three cameras in October 2008 and generated $1.4 million in fines between then and November 2009. City spokesman Michael Dunn said he would have no comment "until our legal counsel has had an opportunity to review the court's decision."

Port Richey City Manager Tom O'Neill also said he would need time to review it. The cameras in Port Richey generated nearly $1.2 million from May 2008 to December 2010.

None of the six Pinellas County municipalities that have cameras need to worry about giving back money. Clearwater, Kenneth City, Gulfport, Oldsmar, South Pasadena and St. Petersburg all went live after the state law took effect. The same goes for Tampa cameras.

Hillsborough County began collecting fines from cameras at six intersections in late December 2009. Officials could not say how much money the cameras generated before July 2010.

"We are in the process of reviewing the Supreme Court of Florida's opinion . . . to determine its applicability, if any, to the county's original 2009 red-light camera ordinance," said Andrea Roshaven, a county spokeswoman.

In 2012, red-light camera operator American Traffic Solutions of Tempe, Ariz., paid $1.2 million to settle all claims related to its involvement with 26 Florida clients that operated red-light camera systems before the July 2010 enactment of the law.

"We felt that, at the time, it was an opportunity to put the issue behind us and move on," ATS spokesman Charles Territo said Thursday. Most of ATS's customers settled, too, he said, but a handful decided to stay in the case. He said he did not know whether those clients included any in the Tampa Bay area.

The decision Thursday came after red-light cameras in Orlando and Aventura were challenged and two appeals courts had conflicting opinions.

Orlando City Attorney Mayanne Downs said her office plans to return fines only to drivers who disputed their red-light camera tickets, but not to those who willingly paid them. She estimated that Orlando would have to return about $100,000 of the $4.3 million the city collected during that time.

Attorney David Kerner said all of those ticketed should get refunds — not just those who appealed.

"The Supreme Court has said the money they collected was collected unlawfully," said Kerner, of the West Palm Beach firm that sued Orlando and others over the cameras.

Kerner said his firm will try to obtain class-action status. If successful, it could mean refunds for everyone who was ticketed before the state law's adoption, except for those cited by cities that have settled, he said.

Times staff writers Zack Peterson, Richard Danielson, Will Hobson, Tony Marrero and Logan Neill and correspondent Robert Napper contributed to this report, which includes information from the Associated Press and Orlando Sentinel.

Comments
Blake Snell wins major-league-leading 20th in 4-0 win over Rangers

Blake Snell wins major-league-leading 20th in 4-0 win over Rangers

ARLINGTON, Texas — One of the things that has made Blake Snell so good this season for the Rays is his refusal to be satisfied with anything he does.No matter how well he pitches, he finds flaws in his performance and identifies something ...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Lightning journal: Alex Killorn’s just puttin’ on the Fitz

Lightning journal: Alex Killorn’s just puttin’ on the Fitz

TAMPA — How big is FitzMagic? It has hit the Lightning, too.Proving that Harvard guys stick together, Lightning forward Alex Killorn showed support for fellow Harvard grad Ryan Fitzpatrick by, sort of, dressing up the way Fitzpatrick did after ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Tuesday’s Rays-Rangers game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Tuesday’s Rays-Rangers game

LHP Blake Snell certainly gets the bulk of the credit for his remarkable season, and there's definitely some due to pitching coach Kyle Snyder. But don't ignore C Jesus Sucre, who Snell likes throwing to and has been both a good target and a calming ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs’ Jameis Winston sued by Arizona Uber driver in alleged groping incident

Bucs’ Jameis Winston sued by Arizona Uber driver in alleged groping incident

TAMPA — Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston was sued Tuesday by the Arizona Uber driver who has accused him of sexual assault by groping her in March 2016.The woman — identified only as Kate P. in the federal court papers — is seeking m...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays journal: Ji-Man Choi impresses fellow South Korean major-leaguer

Rays journal: Ji-Man Choi impresses fellow South Korean major-leaguer

ARLINGTON, Texas — DH Ji-Man Choi has impressed a lot of people with his increasing offensive production since joining the Rays in July.That includes fellow South Korean Shin-Soo Choo, the Rangers' veteran outfielder/DH who has been keeping tab...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Volleyball: PHU continues mastery of St. Petersburg with 3-0 win

ST. PETERSBURG — The much anticipated showdown between Class 8A, District 10 rivals Palm Harbor University and St. Petersburg ended up being a 25-21, 25-23, 25-20 sweep for the Hurricanes. It was the first loss of the season for the Green Devil...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Updated: 7 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Rangers, with Snell going for No. 20

For starters: Rays at Rangers, with Snell going for No. 20

UPDATE, 6:53: Cash said he and others around the team are excited about the possibility of Snell getting his 20th win, and also that they obviously want to win the game. Cash showed it by starting C Jesus Sucre, who Snell likes to throw to. … M...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Tampa Bay businesses feel Red Tide’s sting: ‘Our sales are going to be our lowest ever’

Tampa Bay businesses feel Red Tide’s sting: ‘Our sales are going to be our lowest ever’

TREASURE ISLAND — For the first time during her 15 years bartending at Caddy’s on the Beach, Amanda Hudson had to help close shop early this past weekend because the smell of dead fish coming from the gulf was too putrid to bear."We had to shut down ...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Updated: 10 hours ago