Various jurisdictions have been trying out unmanned cameras that are supposed to take photos of offending cars, then the license plate is divined by a human from those photos and a citation issued, sent to the DMV-recorded address of the car’s owner. I have several questions:
What is the legality of having a machine accuse you of a crime? Has this been challenged in the courts?
Does a person who goes to court and says a) the machine was mistaken or b) that wasn’t me driving the car have much of a chance of getting off?
(I have been inclined to think the answer to this question was “none,” since everyone accused of a traffic crime, in whatever fashion, is pretty much automatically guilty whether or not he shows up in court (cop’s word against yours, you lose, that sort of thing), but I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of people successfully challenging these kinds of tickets.)
In the city of Fife, Washington (a suburb of Seattle), red-light cameras were installed for a period of several months, with the intention of removing them after that period was up. The cameras were touted, not as an aid to law enforcement in cutting down the ghastly epidemic of red-light jumpers, but as a revenue-enhancement tool for a city with a strapped budget. So:
- Do the rights of the accused in traffic violation situations vary greatly from local jurisdiction to local jurisdiction? (Were I cynical, I would opine that if a city had just spent 50 grand to install red-light cams, it would be anxious to recoup its costs at the very least, so…but I’m not cynical.) And can one appeal a guilty verdict on a traffic citation outside the jurisdiction in which the case was heard?