Red Light Camera Tickets in Florida – Fair Game?

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A notice appears in your mailbox.  The envelope has a return address from New York or another random state.  Inside the envelope is a traffic citation, with various color photographs of your vehicle breezing through a red light in a nearby town.  Listed on the citation is your license plate number, date and time of the infraction, and most intrusively, a fine in the amount of $158.00.  To top it off, the Notice provides thirty short days to pay the fine or to challenge the citation in a Florida court.

The first thing that runs through your mind is how is this even possible?  Was I driving my vehicle on this particular date and on this particular time?  Had I loaned my car to a spouse or to a friend?  Why is New York citing me for a traffic infraction that allegedly occurred in Florida?  Is any of this nonsense even lawful?  The notice from New York seems to be legitimate.

Red light cameras are popping up all over Florida.  Depending on your location in the State may determine if the citation is lawful.  Specifically, the 5th District Court of Appeals (Orange, Seminole and surrounding counties) held that the City of Orlando does not have the specific authority under Florida Statute to impose such penalties.  Specifically, the 5th DCA held that the imposition of additional penalties, over and above those already imposed by Florida’s legislature, do not fall within the specific authority granted to municipalities by Florida’s Constitution.

Conversely, the 3rd District Court of Appeals (Miami-Dade and Monroe counties) held that City of Aventura does have the authority to impose penalties based on red light camera infractions.  The 3rd DCA held that such penalties do not invalidate the legislative intent behind the uniform traffic laws and specifications set out by Florida’s Department of Transportation.

The Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments in November and will presumably render a decision early in 2014 regarding the lawfulness of the red light citations.  What does this mean for people who get these tickets in the meantime?  First and foremost, there are valid and lawful ways to challenge these citations.  Upon notice of one of these citations, immediately contact an experienced attorney in your area.  Remember that you MUST decide within thirty days whether you are going to challenge the ticket or pay the fine.

Contact your friends at Cohen Battisti for a free consultation and an explanation of your rights.

Article written by Paul Zeniewicz, Esquire

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Rescuing Hostage Checks

Oftentimes, one sees situations where claims checks or settlement checks due to clients are held hostage by either a homeowner and/or a bank to avoid paying one’s client under an assignment of benefits.  If a claims check or settlement check is improperly encumbered or negotiated by a homeowner or bank, Florida’s civil theft law can help sort the situation out.

Florida’s statutes place strict liability upon a bank for a check’s conversion. Fla. Stat. § 673.1101(4) is very clear where a negotiable instrument “is payable to two or more persons not alternatively, it is payable to all of them and may be negotiated, discharged, or enforced only by all of them” (emphasis added).  Moreover, a negotiable instrument is converted pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 673.4201(1), “if it is taken by transfer, other than a negotiation, from a person not entitled to enforce the instrument or a bank makes or obtains payment with respect to a person not entitled to enforce the instrument or receive payment.” (emphasis added).

Consequently, such a check conversion is punishable under Florida’s civil theft statute, Fla. Stat. § 772.11 (1) (2001), entitled “Civil Remedy For Theft,” which provides: 

Any person who proves by clear and convincing evidence that he or she has been injured in any fashion by reason of any violation of the provisions of ss. 812.012-812.037 has a cause of action for threefold the actual damages sustained and, in any such action, is entitled to minimum damages in the amount of $200, and reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs in the trial and appellate courts.

Therefore, a lawsuit under Florida’s civil theft statute would award one’s client treble damages, attorney’s fees and legal costs.  Note that the law requires that one first make a written demand for the monies due for a period of thirty (30) days.  If the letter’s recipient fails to pay the amount at issue within those thirty (30) days, then one may file suit for the hostage check’s amount, attorney’s fees and treble damages.

 Article Written By: Ricardo Diaz

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Attorney at: Cohen Battisti, Attorneys at Law