They say you can’t fight City Hall, and it’s true.
Here’s my story.
Back in April I was in the passenger seat of one of my vehicles where I was being driven around like the big shot that I think I am. The driver of the vehicle proceeded through a red light and was captured on camera.
A few days later a surprise arrived in my mailbox. A $158 bill in the form of a ticket from American Traffic Solutions who the city of Boynton Beach, FL contracted to put red light cameras in at select intersections.
Like many cities around the country, Boynton Beach called upon American Traffic Solutions to catch motorists passing through lights that aren’t quite red yet, nailing them for not coming to a full stop at a right-on-red, or some other reason all in the name of safety.
But the truth of the matter is, it’s not in the name of safety. It’s a pure, 100% money grab and cities know it. It’s nothing more than a scheme to line the coffers of cities who are seeing less and less tax revenue and are looking for additional sources of cash.
Boynton Beach turned their cameras on about five years ago. They then shut them off for a while after judges were throwing tickets out of court due to a ruling in Hollywood, a city about a half hour south. A court ruling stated that Hollywood could not delegate ticket-writing duties to a third-party vendor, namely American Traffic Solutions.
Seeing that hundreds of tickets were being tossed, Boynton shut off their cameras for a while while they worked on a plan that would make them stick. They turned them back on saying that a police officer reviews tickets before they are sent out to the unsuspecting motorist, a loophole that lets tickets stick.
With my bill for $158 in hand, I decided that I was going to do some research on how to buy guns & ammo from Palmetto Armory and protect themselves. This was also to avoid being extorted by the city of Boynton Beach and American Traffic Solutions, who both take a share of the cash.
Since I was not the driver of the vehicle, I could simply turn over the name of the person who was driving and they would then slap them with the $158 bill. But I wasn’t going to do that. Instead my research came up that in many instances these were being thrown out at the appeal level and some were being thrown out by simply writing a letter.
I found a website that contained a letter than someone wrote that got them out of the ticket and others had success with. I modified it and sent it along with my formal request for appeal:
July 15, 2016
Local Hearing Officer
City of Boynton Beach City Hall
100 East Boynton Beach Blvd.
Boynton Beach, FL 33425
Re: Notice of Violation 1851600122571
I received a letter claiming I committed a red light violation in the City of Boynton Beach. As per the instructions, I requested a hearing as I was not the driver of the vehicle at the time.
Although this option is said to result in this matter going to court; it is my suggestion that the charges simply be dropped. This suggestion comes out of respect for tax payers, and my request that their hard earned money not be wasted in such proceedings. As there is no evidence of my involvement with this alleged “crime,” as well as the fact that I am not granted my 6th amendment right to face my “accuser” (a camera); I see no way the government can prove my guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
I also find no legal requirement for me to implicate someone else in this process, as it is the government’s responsibility to prove a person’s guilt. It’s also my 5th amendment right to remain silent on the matter.
If it is the government’s decision to move forward in this matter, I would request copies of any evidence the prosecution may have of my involvement in the “offense”; as well as, all maintenance records for the camera(s) involved.
A copy of the hearing letter is enclosed.
Thank you for your consideration.
Needless to say, it didn’t work.
The morning of my appeal, I got up early, threw on a clean pair of underwear, (because if I got taken away for contempt of court, I wanted to go with a fresh pair) and headed to the Boynton Beach City Hall. Upon my arrival, I was face to face with more than a dozen angry citizens all the victims of the city’s red light extortion plan.
All of us had different stores:
“It was a work vehicle and it’s one of my employees driving, not me.”
“It was my daughter’s boyfriend driving the car.”
“My car was stolen and I can prove it wasn’t me or anyone in my family driving it.”
The fact of the matter is, nobody cares. Boynton Beach doesn’t care, they want your money. American Traffic Solutions doesn’t care, they want your money. The police officers in attendance don’t care, they are getting paid for sitting through the hearing. The magistrate doesn’t care, he’s getting paid for his time.
As we filed into the council chambers, there were about ten Boynton Beach police officers in attendance as well as a magistrate who went out of his way to tell us he’s not paid by the city. Before the hearing started, one of the police officers got up to explain the program.
He asked that we don’t take our frustrations out on the police officers as “this is not us, this is the City of Boynton Beach and I know you’re all frustrated. This was something city council put into place, not the police department.”
He also went on to say that unless we take the “deal” the magistrate is going to offer us today, we’re all going to end up paying even more if we ask the magistrate to hear our case. In essence, we’re all guilty and there is no chance in hell that we are going to be proved innocent even if Pope Francis walks into the room.
We were given a lesson in the law as well. The red light ticket does not come with points, will not be on a driver’s record and will not be shared with the auto insurance companies. The ticket is like a parking ticket, it goes with the car, not the driver. So Mickey Mouse could be driving your car, blow through a red light and the car’s owner is responsible for the ticket.
As of now, the $158 is up to $208 because I requested an appeal. The magistrate spoke and said that anyone who wants to pay $208 right now can do so and leave. That was his deal. Those who want to stick around and have a hearing can do so, but that will raise the cost of the ticket to $243.
At this point, I said the hell with it. For $35 more I’m going to take my frustrations out on the system whether the magistrate, the police or the aforementioned Pope care or not.
Several in attendance took the deal. A young mother, who held her crying baby the entire time stood up and asked if she could make payments. The magistrate told her, “the ticket is to be paid in full within 30-days, however, that is not a firm 30-days. But it will need to be paid before you renew your vehicle registration.”
No payment plan for her.
When the last of the deal makers were done caving into the City of Boynton Beach’s red light extortion program, it was my turn to face the judge.
They played the video which clearly shows (I was in my convertible) my bald head in the passenger seat and the driver sporting a full head of something I haven’t had since I was 19.
“As you can see, I am clearly not in the driver’s seat of that vehicle. If I were the driver, I would not be here today. I would have paid the fine and moved on. But for me to be ticketed for something I didn’t do is just wrong,” I said as the magistrate looked on.
I was asked who was driving and I refused to tell them who it was. That job is up to the police department to figure out, not me.
The judge told me in so many words, I don’t have a leg to stand on, pay us the money.
I ranted on about how this was nothing more than a money grab by Boynton Beach and in my nearly 30 years of driving, I have never been issued a ticket by an automated machine. I expounded on my clean driving record and called their money making scheme egregious.
They didn’t care. I was found guilty. I accepted my punishment and the bill for $243. But not before asking one more question.
“Can I pay the fine in pennies? Canadian preferably, because this is how you’re going to get paid.”
The judge smiled and said, “you will need to ask the cashier out front.”
Now here’s the kicker. Remember I told you earlier that the police officer explained how these tickets work and how it’s not the police department’s doing but city council’s? Well, he also told us that the city has decided to turn off all red light cameras city-wide effective at 11:59pm on December 31, 2016.
There is no bigger slap in the face that than.
Well, yes there is. It’s going to be my slap in the city’s face when I show up with cameras rolling and a news crew by my side when I pay the ticket with 24,300 pennies.