Thousands of South Florida drivers caught on camera running red lights are one step closer to getting their ticket fines refunded, perhaps even with interest.
Last week the Florida Supreme Court announced it has accepted jurisdiction in two cases questioning the use of red light cameras in a handful of Florida cities, including local municipalities Aventura and Pembroke Pines, which installed such cameras before they were approved by state law.
One case involves Richard Masone, who was videoed allegedly running a red at the William Lehman Causeway and East Country Club Drive twice in 2009 in Aventura, the first Miami-Dade city to install the cameras in 2008.
As the state hadn't yet approved the use of such cameras, infractions like Masone's went before City Hall. His attorney told the Miami New Times "labeling the tickets as code infractions 'was completely illegal. … They were simply extorting millions of dollars from drivers."
The second case involves Kissimmee attorney Michael Udowychenko was photographed driving through a red light in Orlando in 2009, a year before the cameras were approved by state legislature. He paid the $125 ticket but hired a West Palm Beach law firm to prove that such cameras were illegal at the time.
Udowychenko's attorneys told WFTV that the case could affect tens of millions of dollars worth of traffic citations issued before July 2010 when the state approved the cameras under the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, named for a man who was killed in 2003 by a motorist who ran a red light.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that the case will go before the Florida Supreme Court in February or March but that Udowychenko's legal team would also need to win a class action suit if other Florida drivers are to see their fines refunded.
Red light cameras have always been controversial. The American Civil Liberties Union criticizes them as an invasion of privacy and Los Angeles recently un-installed them after ticketed drivers caught on camera consistently neglected to pay their fines. Tech companies have also developed gadgets like noPhoto that obscure how license plates are photographed by cameras at intersections.