MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s revolt against the use of unmanned traffic cameras has hit an unexpected speed bump this week as the City of Montgomery announced they will continue using the devices in defiance of a new law prohibiting them from doing so.
Every member of Montgomery’s state legislative delegation voted in favor of the camera ban, a rare moment of bipartisanship. Sen. Dick Brewbaker (R-Montgomery) said that the Republicans and Democrats were in rare agreement on the issue.
“It shows a gigantic contempt for the public to say we are going to attempt to keep using these camera cars anyway when, A. We have no legal authority to do it. And, B. ‘I know the people don’t like these things but I just don’t care’… That’s the city’s attitude,” said state Sen. Dick Brewbaker (R-Montgomery).
21 states explicitly permit the use of such cameras, 10 states ban them, and 19 states, including Alabama, have no statewide law.
Montgomery and Tuscaloosa were given permission to use the cameras on 2010, but earlier this year Montgomery’s legislative delegation revoked their permission legislatively.
A similar effort to prohibit red light cameras’ use in Tuscaloosa through the court system was unsuccessful last year. Tuscaloosa attorney Stuart Albea challenged their use on constitutional grounds, stating that municipalities fining those caught by the cameras have circumvented proper due process.
“They’ve taken a criminal statute, running a red light, and they’ve removed the part where they have to prove who did it and they call that a civil fine,” Albea told the Tuscaloosa News. “They’re not required to show who was driving the car, so they’re imposing a civil fine on somebody who they haven’t shown has done anything wrong. It’s a ruse, a revenue-generating ruse.”
In upholding Tuscaloosa’s law, County Circuit Court Judge John England wrote that the cameras are permissible because the owners of a vehicle are subject only to fines, not arrest. “The tickets don’t go on the vehicle owner’s criminal record,” he said, “and no negative points are assessed to the owner’s driver’s license.”
Still, opponents of the technology argue that the purpose of the devices is not to promote public safety, but rather to boost local government revenue.
For example, Florida’s statewide law has increased revenue from traffic violations by $100 million since its implementation, giving cities a financial incentive to continue the program. The Tuscaloosa News reports there were 3,574 tickets issued between January and June 2015 and 5,198 during all of 2014 from the nine monitored intersections.
As for Montgomery, Sen. Brewbaker said that attorneys want him to sue the city, but he has yet to make up his mind about how he will proceed.