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Red light cameras hover above intersections in more than twenty cities across South Florida.
Sometimes, you don’t even know the camera is there until a ticket arrives in the mail.
“I feel like I want to put my hand out the window and have them take a picture of my finger, that’s what I really want to do,” said Moses Carvalho.
Carvalho was heading to work near the Aventura Mall when one of the city’s red light cameras caught him making an illegal right hand turn on red.
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“I feel like I’m being watched,” he said.
He’s one of more than 250,000 people who received a ticket for making a right-hand turn on red in South Florida over the past year.
Unless there’s a sign that reads “No Turn on Red,” Florida’s red light camera law states a right turn on red needs to be done in a ‘careful and prudent manner.’
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The NBC 6 Investigators found each city makes its own interpretation of what “careful and prudent” means.
For example in the city of West Miami, it’s carefully turning at 10 miles per hour or less. In Sweetwater, it’s 12 miles an hour, and in Sunrise, it’s 15 miles per hour.
“No two cities are alike in any way, shape or form,” said Louis Arslanian, an attorney with The Ticket Clinic.
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Arslanian filed a suit in Miami-Dade to dismiss one of his client’s tickets and won.
A judge ruled “there is nothing uniform in the operation of the various red light camera programs.” The ruling is now being challenged in court. If the ruling’s upheld, Arslanian’s case could affect more than 3,000 pending tickets and thousands of future tickets.
“It has got to be fair,” Arslanian said. “And fair means one set of guidelines that comply with state law.”
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Attorney Ed Guedes is fighting the ruling. He represents a handful of South Florida cities with red light cameras.
“What people are upset about frankly is that technology has increased enforcement,” he said.
Guedes says the various speeds that cities have set up are mere “guidelines” to use so officers know which tickets to review.
“A police officer is still reviewing the evidence,” he said. “This isn’t a situation where, ‘Oh well, the cameras issue the tickets the cameras make the determination.'”
Guedes believes the various guidelines between cities are no different than an officer personally handing a driver a ticket. That’s because he says the officer uses personal judgment which can differ from officer to officer and city to city.
“The camera captures what the eye would’ve captured,” said Guedes. “The only thing that’s missing from the dynamic is the ability of the driver to talk himself or herself out of the ticket.”
There’s one thing both attorneys agree on – drivers should stop on regardless of where they are to avoid breaking the law and receiving a ticket.
The defense has requested a rehearing in the case and will be back in a Miami-Dade court on Tuesday.
A judge is expected to make a decision on how to move forward.
The NBC 6 Investigators will update you on what happens.