Court Tells Man $172 Red Light Camera Ticket Is Actually Less Than $100 And Can't Be Challenged In Court
from the you-see,-once-you-subtract-all-the-other-money-you're-obligated-to-pay... dept
Adding to the body of evidence showing that the use of traffic cameras is purely about revenue generation is this report from The Newspaper, which points out (yet again) how these systems are designed to eliminate due process and hasten the collection of fines and fees.
In this case, part of the designed due process elimination was already in place before the red light cameras went up. Certain citations are designed to be unable to be challenged, and this one — a red light infraction pinned on the wrong person — is one of them.
Recipients of red light camera tickets in Delaware cannot challenge the citation in court because the $172 fine is worth less than $100 by the reckoning of the Delaware Superior Court. Judge Abigail M. LeGrow last month denied the appeal of Stanley C. Lowicki, whose car was photographed by a red light camera while allegedly traveling through a red light at the intersection of Route 72 at Kenmore Drive on May 18, 2017.
Because he was not actually behind the wheel at the time of the alleged infraction, Lowicki challenged the citation before the local Justice of the Peace Court. The justice of the peace was not interested in his arguments and imposed the full $172 fine, which Lowicki appealed to the Court of Common Pleas. That court declined to consider the case since it is only able to hear appeals for “civil penalties” that exceed $100.
If you’re wondering how $172 can be less than $100, the Common Pleas courts is happy to explain it to you. In upholding the Justice of the Peace Court’s decision, the Common Pleas court performs the sort of math you usually see deployed by Hollywood studio accountants. From the decision [PDF]… no, wait a second. Let’s hang back a minute and savor this judicial turn of phrase:
On May 18, 2017, a car Stanley C. Lowicki owned was captured by a traffic camera disobeying a red light on Route 72 at Kenmore Drive.
Great. The traffic lights are sentient. So are the cars. Bring on Skynet etc.
OK. Here’s the court’s breakdown the $172 fine, which is pertinent to its finding that $172 is less than $100 and, therefore, incapable of being challenged.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the JP Court found Mr. Lowicki responsible for the violation and ordered him to pay $172.50, consisting of the following amounts:
Fine Amount: $75.00
Court Costs: $25.00
Court Security Fee: $10.00
Transportation Trust Fund: $37.50
State Police Fund: $7.50
Local Law Enforcement Fund: $7.50
Ambulance Fund: $10.00
To challenge a fine, it must be over $100. Breaking down all the fees attached to the actual “fine” shows most of the assessed fine isn’t actually the fine, but a bunch of handouts to everyone involved in the scheme (except ambulances, I guess…). This keeps the supposed real “fine” under the $100 mark, which makes it unassailable in court. Drivers (or non-drivers, as it is in this case) can hope to talk the local JP into dropping the fine (and its costly appendages) but that option is rarely successful.
Lowicki argued that this breakdown of “funds” that are inseparable from the “fine” is some bullshit. He’s correct. But it’s the state’s bullshit and it pretty clearly seems to be constructed this way to maximize revenue while reducing the state’s exposure to courtroom challenges.
The court agrees with the State and its fund-packing.
The term “civil penalty” in Section 4101(d)(12) corresponds to the amount of the fine assessed by the JP Court, which falls within the “civil or administrative assessment” referenced in Section 4101(d)(3). Section 4101(d)(12) specifies that any late fees assessed under subsection (d)(3) also will be considered part of the civil penalty for determining whether there is a right to appeal. By specifically referring to only one of the amounts contained in subsection (d)(3), the legislature made clear that the other costs and fees imposed were not included within the “civil penalty.” Section 4101(d)(3) refers to those amounts as costs and fees, not assessments or penalties.
And, just like that, $172 becomes less than $100 and tickets from red light cameras become nigh invincible. There is no recourse in Delaware and Stanley Lowicki’s only option appears to be [checks notes] obtaining a more obedient vehicle.