Appeals court says Oldsmar's red-light cameras are legal

A tool to catch drivers who run red lights may go to high court.
Published October 28 2016
Updated October 28 2016

OLDSMAR — A second Florida appeals court has ruled that it is legal to use cameras to catch red-light runners.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal said Friday that the city of Oldsmar's camera program doesn't break a state law that bans the delegation of law enforcement activity to a third party. It follows a similar ruling issued in July in a case filed against the City of Aventura in Dade County.

But the issue could still be heading to the Florida Supreme Court because those rulings conflict with one from the 4th District Court of Appeal, which shut down the city of Hollywood's program in 2014

The Oldsmar case was filed by the same consortium of South Florida attorneys that overturned citations in Hollywood. They won that case by arguing that American Traffic Solutions workers conducted the initial screening of video footage to identify potential violations and determined which cases to refer to the city.

But the three-judge panel that ruled for Oldsmar said the Hollywood decision may have been the result of judges there only reviewing contract language and not the actual process used by the city.

It noted that all potential cases reviewed by ATS workers for Oldsmar are forwarded to the city, where law enforcement officers review them before deciding whether to issue a $158 citation.

"It's very satisfying to know that the judges are beginning to see what we've been arguing from the get-go is correct," said Ed Gudes, an attorney representing Oldsmar.

The ruling will likely bolster the city of Tampa, which is fighting lawsuits against its camera program in circuit court.

"I think it will have its impact on how courts in Hillsborough County view cases involving red-light camera programs," said City Attorney Julia Mandell, who expects the case to eventually be taken up by the state Supreme Court.

In its ruling siding with Aventura, judges from the 3rd District Court of Appeal called on the state's highest court to provide a definitive ruling on the controversial traffic safety programs.

The court is not obligated to accept the case, but typically takes on legal issues where appellate courts have set conflicting legal precedent.

Contact Christopher O'Donnell at codonnell@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.

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