In the first challenge to a red-light-camera ticket, a traffic court judge has ruled that pictures and footage from the devices can't be used as evidence — partly because they cannot show who the drivers are of vehicles shown committing offenses.
In a decision issued Friday, traffic court Judge Kurt Hitzemann agreed with Attorney Peyton Hyslop, who in August argued that his client, Spring Hill resident Julio Carral, wasn't given the opportunity to challenge his red-light-camera traffic citation; that the citation wasn't properly delivered and that the pictures themselves are inadmissible.
Carral received a ticket after his vehicle was photographed in May running a red light at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Wiscon Road.
Hitzemann wrote that Internet printouts sent to vehicle owners are "inadmissible hearsay."
He added that police weren't able to verify that notification of the traffic infraction had been sent to the court, because the camera vendor had done it instead.
While either of those two reasons are enough to dismiss the case, Hitzemann wrote that the images from the cameras fail to show whether the vehicle owner is the driver who commits the traffic infraction.
"If the court had not previously found that dismissal of the citation was proper, the evidentiary defect described here would have led to a not-guilty verdict," Hitzemann wrote.
Hyslop said Friday that the ruling opens the door for motorists to successfully challenge their red-light camera tickets in court as well — if they can present the right arguments, such as the ones he used.
"I'm quite happy with this outcome and hopefully the city will see the writing on the wall and see that these tickets are no way to raise money," Hyslop said. "Others can successfully challenge their tickets, but they would have to raise the appropriate objections and hopefully a judge will similarly have their case thrown out."
George Angeliadis, an attorney with the Hogan Law Firm, which represents the city, said the case doesn't necessarily mean that vehicle owners are guaranteed a free ride from paying their red-light camera ticket.
He added that his firm would discuss the case with city officials and decide whether they intend to appeal the case.
"I haven't had a chance to really look at the judge's order. But if he has more of a problem with the way the case was presented, it could be something that's easily fixed," Angeliadis said. "But I'm not sure this changes anything."