You got a letter from the Apopka Police Department that contained a Red Light Camera violation notice. You went online and reviewed the video and the photos. At this point you had to make a decision. Do I pay the fine or do I request a hearing and try to convince the independent hearing officer, also known as a magistrate, to dismiss my case.
If you pay the fine it will cost you $158. If you take your case before the magistrate and win the cost is zero. But if you take your case to hearing and lose the cost becomes $408 ($158 for the violation and $250 for hearing costs).
The City of Apopka schedules its Red Light Camera hearings on the second Tuesday of each month. At the beginning of the hearings the clerk and the officer both explain to the petitioners which defenses are unlikely to result in a dismissal. The ineffective defenses include:
- The sun was in my eyes
- I was driving too fast to stop
- The road was wet
- I was behind a large vehicle and could not see the light
- I was distracted by someone or something in my car
- The light was red for my lane but it was green for the lane I switched to as I approached or entered the intersection
After the ineffective defenses are listed the petitioners are given the opportunity to plead guilty, pay the $158 fine and incur a $50 dismissal fee. Total cost: $208. The crowd is reminded that Red Light Camera violations do not go on their driving record. At this point the decision is;
- Do I plead guilty before my hearing is called and pay $208, or
- Do I go forward with the hearing and risk paying $200 more if I am unable to convince the magistrate to dismiss my case?
There were 34 cases scheduled to be heard yesterday by the independent hearing officer, Randy Means from Brevard County. After hearing the the list of ineffective defenses 12 people decided to plead guilty and pay $208. The others decided to plead their case before the hearing officer.
Thirteen of the cases heard involved straight-thru violations. All thirteen were found to be violations by the hearing officer.
Seven of the cases were at the intersection of Park and Main street. All seven drivers were traveling southbound on Park in the left turn lane and the red light was on for traffic in that lane. All seven drivers continued straight on Park thus running the red light for the left turn lane. All seven cases were found to be red light camera violations.
It should be noted that changing lanes while in an intersection is illegal, but the red light camera video can only be used to issue red light camera citations.
Eight cases involved turning right on red without first coming to a complete stop. Six of the cases were upheld and two of the right-turn cases were dismissed by the hearing officer. In those cases the hearing officer found that, even though the drivers did not come to a complete stop before turning right on red, they did make a right-hand turn, “…in a careful and prudent manner.”
What constitutes, “a careful and prudent manner?”
There does not appear to be a hard and fast rule, but speed through the turn seemed to play a big part in yesterday’s dismissals. In one case the magistrate explained his decision by saying, “The video shows that you intended to stop. Make sure you do next time.”
“There won’t be no next time,” said the grateful petitioner.
In the other case the magistrate said, “You came to almost a full stop.”
In both cases the video showed the drivers were noticeably slowing as they approached the turns and had their brakes on. In the other right-turn cases the drivers were not slowing and did not apply their brakes at any time.
At the end of the day there were 32 violations upheld and 2 violations dismissed.
In January there were 25 violations upheld and 6 violations dismissed.