Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Public safety

Judge dismisses Brooksville red-light camera citation

BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville's red-light camera program was dealt a legal blow Friday when a county judge dismissed charges against a Spring Hill man who challenged a citation.

In his ruling, Judge Kurt Hitzemann found defendant Julio Carral not guilty on grounds that some procedures used by the city and its camera vendor to enforce the law and charge violators were improper.

Hitzemann said the city failed to properly notify the vehicle owner of the infraction as required by state law, and also failed to properly deliver the citation to the clerk of court. Probably most importantly, the judge said, the city provided Carral with photographic evidence of his alleged violation that could not be authenticated.

The case marks the first successful legal challenge to the city's red-light camera program since it was implemented in May.

Carral received a citation in the mail in July telling him that his 2005 Lexus sedan was photographed on May 23 running a red light at U.S. 41 and Wiscon Road, on the south side of Brooksville. Instead of paying the $158 ticket, Carral opted to hire Brooksville lawyer Peyton Hyslop to challenge the matter in court.

In his arguments before Hitzemann, Hyslop questioned the validity of the traffic-monitoring devices on several legal grounds, including whether the cameras deny vehicle owners their right to due process. Although the city had provided its own legal counsel at the hearing, Hitzemann said that because a state traffic code was being questioned, the municipality had no legal standing in the matter. The State Attorney's Office declined to get involved.

In his three-page order, Hitzemann said that the city's notice of violation was "inadmissible hearsay" in that the name of the vehicle's owner had not been authenticated on the citation. He also ruled that the city erred by allowing the camera vendor to provide a copy of the citation to the clerk of court's office, rather than doing so itself.

In addition, Hitzemann ruled that photographs and videos taken by the cameras do not meet evidence standards because they cannot be authenticated, and said that "if the Court had not previously found the dismissal of the citation was proper, the evidentiary defect … would have led to a not guilty verdict."

Hyslop said Friday that Hitzemann's ruling could spell a similar fate for other red-light citations should they be challenged on the same grounds.

"If enough of these rulings came down, it would mean the (state) Legislature would have to take a look at tweaking the law," Hyslop said.

In his order, Hitzemann declined to rule on the constitutionality of the state's red-light camera statute, saying that such challenges needed to be in writing and notification provided to the state Attorney General's Office.

Brooksville Police Chief George Turner said Friday he had not seen Hitzemann's order and didn't want to comment on the verdict.

To date, the city's 13 operational cameras have captured more than 5,000 violations.

The city's initial foray into red-light cameras began in 2009. Back then, the program was operated under a city ordinance. The program ended in 2010 after a contract dispute with the camera vendor.

Last year, the City Council voted to reinstate the program and operate it under a new state statute, using Sensys America as its camera vendor.

The $158 citations, which are charged to the owner of the vehicle, earn the state $83 per violation, with the city and the company splitting the remaining $75. Under the terms of the contract, Sensys can receive up to $90,000 a month for each camera in operation — or up to $540,000 in a six-month period. The city keeps any additional revenue.

Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] at (352) 848-1435.

Comments

Woman hit, killed while crossing road in Tampa

TAMPA — A pedestrian was struck and killed by a vehicle while crossing N 40th Street near E Hanlon Street on Wednesday night, according to Tampa police.The crash took place just before 8 p.m. The driver was heading north on 40th Street before strikin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Son tells NC police he found dog leash around neck of strangled Hillsborough developer Bill Bishop

Son tells NC police he found dog leash around neck of strangled Hillsborough developer Bill Bishop

After a prominent Hillsborough County developer died last month in North Carolina, word spread it was a heart attack that claimed his life.But records from that state show the death of William "Bill" Bishop was much more complicated.His 16-year-old s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Coast Guard suspends search for man missing from Tampa cruise

Coast Guard suspends search for man missing from Tampa cruise

The Coast Guard announced Wednesday night that it has suspended the search for a man who was reported to have gone overboard from a cruise ship that left Tampa.Officials aboard the Carnival Paradise told the Coast Guard on Tuesday morning that Brian ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Three arrested for street racing after mother fatally struck pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard

Three arrested for street racing after mother fatally struck pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard

TAMPA — The two cars raced each other along Bayshore Boulevard just before noon, witnesses told police. One was a black 2018 Mustang. The other a gold Nissan. They sped side-by-side, trading the lead, police said, despite the traffic and pedestrians ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Sinkhole opens up near Bayfront Health’s Brooksville hospital

BROOKSVILLE — A large sinkhole opened up by Bayfront Health Brooksville hospital in a water retention pond between State Road 50 and the hospital’s parking lot, according to a hospital spokeswoman.The sinkhole poses no threat to hospital buildings, e...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Clearwater deputy fire chief resigns as report on sick leave abuse is released

Clearwater deputy fire chief resigns as report on sick leave abuse is released

CLEARWATER — A months-long probe into abuse of sick leave within the fire department concluded this week with the resignation of a deputy chief and the release of an internal review.The city paid $93,816 in unearned or unauthorized sick time, benefit...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Wrong-way driver, 87, dies in head-on collision, FHP says

Wrong-way driver, 87, dies in head-on collision, FHP says

BROOKSVILLE— An 87-year-old wrong-way driver died Tuesday night when she collided head-on with an oncoming pick-up truck, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place at about 8:50 p.m. on Sunshine Grove Road near Webster Street.Patri...
Updated: 7 hours ago
FDLE: Victim in $480,000 scam is heiress to Wrigley gum fortune

FDLE: Victim in $480,000 scam is heiress to Wrigley gum fortune

A woman state authorities say was scammed out of $480,000 by two of her employees is an heiress to the Wrigley chewing gum fortune.The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed Tuesday that the victim in the case is Helen Rich, 69, formerly Hel...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Carlton: Lowering the American flag for the newly dead at school — again

Carlton: Lowering the American flag for the newly dead at school — again

In a scene repeated at public buildings across the country, the American flag in front of the library outside my office window was lowered to half-staff this week.This time for 10 dead in Texas.In February, the American flag was similarly half-staff ...
Published: 05/23/18
Largo man broke into jewelry store, cut himself on glass and bled all over everything, police say

Largo man broke into jewelry store, cut himself on glass and bled all over everything, police say

A Largo man was arrested Monday after police said he broke into the front door of a jewelry store and stole $10,000 in jewelry, but cut himself in the process and left blood all over the store.Police arrested Jaime Williams, 31, on a charge of burgla...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18