This entry was posted on Monday, July 11th, 2011 at 3:40 pm and is filed under Rodney Galles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
The incident reported on Thursday, July 7 on the Baltimore Washington Parkway of an individual attacking an empty vehicle equipped with a speed monitoring device of some nature impelled me to consider the idea of automated convictions. The issue is not only redlight cameras. Unattended, automated, speed and traffic signal monitors of any type are subsequently used to prosecute and deprive the suspected citizen of his/her right to confront the accuser. While the majority of instances of camera conviction are almost certainly valid, the presumption of innocence must be retained. With a camera, radar gun, or laser trap, the accuser must still be an individual, not a robot.
The issue of impaired driving (i.e. drunken driving) is handled quite differently by courts in other countries. In Great Britain, during the seventies when I was there, conviction of drunken driving brought an automatic imposition of a one year suspension of privileges. Notice the word, privilege. While a privilege to drive, attend school, etc., depends upon the conditions laid down for obtaining the privilege; a right, like an American’s right to face their accuser, cannot be impaired. Conditions can only in extremely severe instances be allowed to impair a right. The major example of this statement is the impairment of a military person from making statements that can be construed as espousing a diplomatic or policy position that might differ from the official position (Freedom of speech, for the educationally deprived). The threat imposed by speeding drivers does not come close to meeting the threshold for the removal of one’s rights and is therefore unwarranted and unconstitutional.
It must be the intention and the result of a statute to reduce or eliminate contrary behavior for the law to be valid. Speeding is a violation of a statute. Running a red light is a violation of a statute and additionally a hazard to other citizens. The remedy is to severely impair the ability of a convicted violator of those statutes from repeating the violation. If the result of being convicted in court for violating a red light law, for example were to be imposition of a suspension of three months to a year of driving privilege, the frequency of the violation would rapidly decline. The fines without points, imposed by cameras due to their inability to fully prove the violation, do not have this effect and appear to exist solely to raise revenue. When the purpose, implied or actually, is to collect money then the statue is perverted and could reasonably be opposed as violating the rights of the individual.
If you must employ cameras or other inanimate devices to aid the law enforcement, their use must be individually controlled by at least one officer on the scene; and the devices must in some way be calibrated or verified to have been operating correctly at the scene of the violation. Let’s return law enforcement to the police officers and use the automated devices only to indicate areas where increased enforcement might be productive.
P.S. The imposition of heavy but uniform punishment, meted out to each person convicted, regardless of station, wealth or influence will do much to reduce violations. The concept of probation before judgment is also a culprit in such cases. To say that you get a free shot at a violation depending upon the attitude of the judge is to say that justice is not equally applied under the law.