Knox Woman's Federal Case Against Red Light Cameras

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) -- Ever gotten a traffic ticket you felt you didn't deserve, but figured it was cheaper to pay rather then to fight it?

One woman has and she is making a federal case over Knoxville's red-light cameras.

Others have fought red-light camera tickets by claiming “it wasn't my car”, or “I wasn't driving.”

This suit challenges the camera system in principle, arguing it pulls a hit-and-run on your constitutional rights.

In a technological age, people often feel that a red-camera couldn’t be wrong.

That's the theory in 15 Knoxville intersections where the camera never blinks.

“I'm very careful not to beat one, because I'm scared of them,” said Kathy Hart, a Knox County resident.

If you do get caught, do you fight it or simply pay for it?

“It just depends,” said David Cate of Knoxville, “depends on whether I was guilty or not.

Judy Williams insists the camera proves she isn't guilty, but to fight, her citation notice says she'd have to pay $67.50 in court costs, $17.50 more than the fine itself.

“You shouldn't have to pay court costs if you're successful in challenging it,” Cate said.

Judy William's claims the camera’s force you to prove yourself not guilty, trashing your constitutional and state rights of due process to free access to defend yourself.

Paying for the right to challenge, she alleges, is akin to paying a poll tax to vote.

In court, Knoxville's law department has argued that you only have to pay to fight the ticket if you lose, but lawyers won't make the case on camera, until a judge makes a ruling.

For some, the camera's benefit is clear cut, it can keep people honest while driving, but it may also make drivers less likely to fight.

Of the more than 48,000 warnings or citations this year and 29,000 last year, fewer than 400 folks have fought.

Those who choose not to fight do so because they believe if the camera caught you going through the light, it must be right.

That is not always the case.

Through the first half of this year Knoxville police dismissed about one out of every six citations for everything from obstructed views, to safe right turns to emergency vehicles on call.

The message is that there is room to maneuver.

One camera caught a Mercedes stopping just over the white line at a red light, but the driver caught himself and moved back behind the line.
Police will have to review the pictures to see whether he'll be cited.

As for the Williams lawsuit, Redflex, the private company behind the cameras, has filed for it to be dismissed.

The judge is currently considering its merits, which means a year after Judy Williams filed her case; it still isn't even close to going to trial.


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