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Orange County Red Light Camera Challenge

A new red light camera challenge has been filed in the Ninth Circuit in Orange County, Florida: Stephen Facella v. Orange County.

Recently, the Ninth Circuit held that red light camera tickets are invalid for the City of Orlando in Hastings v. City of Orlando. However, that hasn’t stopped the City of Orlando, or other nearby municipalities like Orange County, from continuing to issue tickets and uphold them at “administrative hearings” where ordinary citizens are given no chance of winning.

That is, when a person is issued a red light camera violation, they are given the choice to pay or request a hearing. What most people don’t realize is that the hearing will be in administrative court before a hearing officer that is hired for the sole purpose of upholding violations by the very municipality that issued the ticket. Chris Heath at Channel 9 in Orlando ran a piece on this issue last month:

It is possible to skip the administrative hearing and get a case heard in “real” traffic court, but a non-attorney is not going to know how to do that. The municipalities bank on the fact that ordinary citizens will not understand the procedural technicalities and will request hearings in administrative court where they are doomed to lose.

The fact that there is no viable chance of success at the administrative hearing level was highlighted in the Facella case, when Mr. Facella, who was not represented by a lawyer at the hearing, was blocked from introducing any evidence or argument that his case should follow the precedent set in Orlando in the Hastings case.

The Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, who has a financial interest in seeing red light camera violations upheld throughout the State, was granted leave to file an amicus brief (“friend of the court” brief) in Facella in support of Orange County’s position that the administrative hearing officer does not have jurisdiction to decide if red light camera tickets are invalid under Hastings.

Mr. Facella filed an initial brief through his attorney last week. The full text of it can be viewed here: initial brief facella.

In it, he argues that it is a violation of his due process rights to block him from introducing evidence that Orange County’s program is invalid just like the City of Orlando’s.

He also argues that, even though he was barred from introducing evidence, there is enough information in the record for the Ninth Circuit panel to find that Orange County’s system is invalid in accordance with the Hastings case precedent.

This case is important because it directly challenges the way Orange County and other municipalities handle their administrative hearings.

If successful, Mr. Facella’s case could even the playing field for regular citizens wishing to challenge their red light camera violations.

Orange County and the Attorney General will file briefs in the coming weeks and updates will be posted as this case progresses.

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