As of January 1, Arizona drivers got a special delayed Christmas gift from the legislature: a new way to extract money from unsuspecting citizens. Now, keep in mind that in Arizona, the legality of traffic cameras to begin with is actually in a VERY grey area…our constitution is pretty strictly worded and clearer than most on a citizen’s right to confront their accuser; you can’t confront a camera. And there are many stories out in the ether regarding citizens being ticketed while doing the speed limit — three years ago, the city of Scottsdale lost a class action lawsuit brought by citizens wrongfully ticketed and had to refund all the fines, take the points off the drivers’ licenses, and pay the court fees. There is also the incident of a traffic camera sending a photo radar ticket to a man who had been dead for three years. I wish I could find this news story, but it is apparently too old to be in the AZ Central’s archives any longer. And more recently, there is the case of a 60 year old woman who had her license suspended by a judge for a photo radar ticket, even though it was obvious by the photo it wasn’t her, nor was it even her car.
I have been hearing recently of people — spouses and family members of people I work with, so I take the stories very seriously — who were not legally served with notice of a ticket and having their licenses suspended. They found out in one case by being pulled over based on the license plate and being arrested. Apparently the UN-official directive by law enforcement has been for process servers to just drop off the summons at the last known residence and forge a signature of receipt, thereby allowing the courts to allow a false acknowledgment of summons and suspend the license when the ‘offender’ doesn’t show up in court. So then not only do they have to pay the fines associated with the ticket, they have to take time off work at their own expense, and pay to have their license re-instated. How ridiculous.
Our state has a 1.1 BILLION dollar shortfall for this year, according to a press conference that was covered by our local radio station KTAR we will run out of operating money by next month. Our governor, being largely responsible for creating this budget mess (highway contracts awarded to friends, lawsuits lost regarding said, etc), will not of course be around to fix it — she will be the new director of Homeland Security for Obama. It has been known for well over a year that there will be large budget shortfalls, yet the only action the state has really taken is to attempt to increase their revenue by instituting the expansion of traffic cameras, and by instituting obscure laws with high fines in order to generate revenue.
Even some of our legislators and law officers are against these types of laws, for good reason — this is an older story, but highlights the conflict well.
This editorial by Mike Bibb from Safford, hits the nail on the head. “[ARS 28-2354] seems to be an obvious attempt by the legislature to extract additional fines and penalties from Arizona’s motoring public under the pretense of safety.” It gets even better, because this new law applies ONLY to Arizona residents — out of state, and out of country plates are exempt. How much clearer could it be that this law is designed to extract fines from citizens as a new form of revenue?
Representative Bill Konopnicki is well aware of the true purpose of this law as shown by this story and is one of the good guys, at least on this item. His courage in standing up to the idea of law abiding citizens as revenue sources over and above taxes, is to be applauded. His common sense solution of course probably will not pass as it will cost the state millions, both in lost fine revenue and in increased costs associated with making a license plate that actually makes the law obsolete.
In related news, DPS has raised the speed over which the cameras will *flash* you, this is due to lawsuits being filed about the fact that the actual rate of speed in certain areas of the state vs. the speed limit are about 10 miles per hour different, and people slamming on their brakes to avoid a ticket was causing more accidents than there were when traffic was allowed to flow. That story is covered in part here.
The video linked to here is pretty great. Mike Urbano used to be a DPS officer, got fed up with the system, became a lawyer, and helps the little guy fight back. He says in this video that police were actually thinking about arresting him because he was helping citizens alter their plates so that they could keep their plate holders. How crazy is that??? And how much more clear could it be what the law is actually about? Open the video, it’s well worth your time to watch.
The traffic camera question is about to become a citizens’ initiative according to the Tucson Citizen. Now, I am not in favor of ‘mob rule’ being how laws should be enacted and enforced, but in this case the government obviously doesn’t have our best interests at heart and I can’t wait to sign my name to the petition to outlaw the cameras. The new sherriff of Pima County already has, but the County Board of Supervisors have put a hold on his directive until Jan. 21. Of course they did, the man was voted into office based largely on his campaign promise to get rid of the cameras, and the BOS sees their income drying up if they allow him to make good on his promise.
I predict a further rash of ill conceived laws enacted as legislators look for ways to make a quick buck at the expense of common citizens, and further public outcry and ballot initiatives/lawsuits that will end up costing the state even more money. I also predict the further erosion of the rights of the common citizen as police get further militarized, and more nervous about their job security. If it gets a whole lot worse, I predict that there will begin to be stories about police extracting bribes for protection.