Saturday, Oct 25, 2014
Columns

Brooksville’s red-light camera process a sham


Published:

This letter is regarding the red-light cameras, and the unprofessional and biased way the Brooksville Police and the hearing officer made their determinations.

I am a resident of Orange County and know that Florida law says red-light right turns without a full stop are OK as long as they are done in a “careful and prudent” manner.

While in Brooksville, I turned right while the light was yellow. Correction — as I was driving and making the turn, the traffic light turned red for .7 seconds. This resulted in Brooksville’s finest to issue a citation.

I reviewed the video over and over again, and saw that clearly, for the majority of the video, the light was yellow. Again, it was only red for less than one second as I made the turn.

So, as a citizen who has worked for a sheriff’s office and who follows the law, I felt this citation was an error and chose to have a hearing.

Let’s talk about the hearing. First off, it was started late because the officers couldn’t figure out how to get their printer working.

When it did get started, four people had their charges dismissed because the officer who cited them didn’t show up. I guess he felt catching real criminals was a better use of taxpayers’ time.

Before we started going through the cases, the hearing officer made it known that we were not to question the validity of the cameras, if they were unconstitutional, or any of the like. He also let us know that while it is not illegal to turn on red in all counties, Brooksville has decided that you must be going under 5 mph to be considered making a cautious turn. Being from Orlando, this is not the law here. In fact, Orlando does not issue right-turn tickets because officials think those violations require judgments that can be too subjective.

Then we started reviewing the cases of all who attended. Some were obvious running of red lights. One car almost hit another as they ran through the light. OK, that was a justified ticket.

But the majority were cars that turned on red and even when there were no other cars on the road, the lovely Brooksville PD decided we were all law breakers. Every single driver’s citation was upheld.

Then a gentleman was called up, who was cited by the same officer as I was. He, along with 2 cars behind him, all turned on red while going over that magical speed of 5 mph.

The Hearing Officer even made a comment that he wasn’t sure which car belonged to the defendant. But after viewing the video it was a clear violation and they had hit the “trifecta” of red light runners.

The defendant was asked if he thought the officer was wrong, or if he had any issues with him. He said, “No, and I’ve know Officer Jeffries since he was in my class. I was his seventh-grade teacher.” He even said, it was good to see him. The officer blushed and the hearing officer perked up and said, “You know, I will review this case. You will be advised in 7-10 days on my decision.”

Wow. So, being the officer’s teacher apparently got this guy some leeway on if he was going to be cited or not.

Then they called me up. They viewed the picture and video. They asked if I had anything to say. Why yes I did. I said that I had sat there and watched every video along with them. Not one of those videos showed the light as being yellow before the infraction of anyone else. But for the majority of mine, it was yellow. In fact, it was less than one second that the light was red.

They re-watched my video numerous times. The officer said, well your car was behind the stop line as it was red. I said, it is hard to tell at the angle of the camera, but if it was, it was less than one second. He looked at me with contempt and said, “It was point seven.” I said, “Yes, that is less than one second.”

Officer Jeffries zoomed in on the photo, and tried to show that my car was behind the line when the light was red. I argued that I couldn’t tell because of the angle and shadow of my car.

The hearing officer said that I should have stopped on the yellow. I said, it is not against the law to go while the light is yellow. He said that I should have known the light was turning red and stopped. Again, I said, it is not against the law to proceed on yellow. I didn’t do anything wrong. I also said again that I was the only person who didn’t run thru a continuous red light.

At this point, he got visibly aggravated at me and said I shouldn’t have sped up. I told him I didn’t speed up, in fact I was only going 15 mph and didn’t speed up to beat the light. I also said that I was so close to the line that in less than 1 second that the light was red before I turned, there was no way I could have stopped. He said, “You decided to keep going on yellow, you took the chance of running the light. And you lost.” Again, this is subjective.

So I guess that if I had been officer Jeffries’ teacher, they wouldn’t have made that .7 of a second such a big deal.

I find the entire process a sham, and the fact that they were not fair in how they treated me compared to the teacher proof that this was not a fair hearing.

This is a flagrant abuse of taxpayers’ money and a loophole to steal money from the citizens.

I will be requesting a copy of the transcripts of the entire hearing and will be filing a formal complaint against the officer and the hearing officer in regards to the way we were not all treated in the same way.

Hernando County residents should know that leniency is given to those who have had a history with the officers, and not given to other citizens.

Jennifer Barrett is a resident of Orlando.

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