South Florida cities with red-light cameras scramble to meet deadline

The Miami HeraldJuly 1, 2013 

Some South Florida cities' red-light camera programs will come to a screeching halt Monday as municipalities scramble to comply with a new state law.

The law, which will go into effect Monday, says drivers nabbed by a red-light camera have the right to contest their citations before a special local hearing board.

Some cities don't have one, and will stop issuing tickets until they do.

Not in Manatee County, where Sheriff Brad Steube said red-light cameras will continue to nab offenders as a special magistrate has been established for drivers to contest tickets.

"We have not established the board. The county has established it," Steube said.

In Miami, city commissioners quickly assembled to vote on an emergency ordinance to create a special hearing system, but the measure did not get the four-fifths majority it would have needed to pass, said Commission Chairman Marc Sarnoff.

Without a hearing board, Miami can't issue red-light camera tickets without violating state law, he said.

Some commissioners would rather scrap the camera program entirely than set up the new hearing system. They'll vote again July 11.

"When that happens," Sarnoff said, "we'll either have an ordinance or we won't have

an ordinance. So there will either be red-light cameras, or there won't be."

Eliminating the red-light camera program would mean breaching the city's contract with camera company American Traffic Solutions, which Miami pays to operate and maintain the cameras, said Sarnoff.

Doral also will halt its camera program until it decides whether to create a special hearing board or get rid of the cameras altogether.

Doral Mayor Luigi Boria wants them gone, but that's a matter for the city commission, he said. The body will vote on the cameras in August.

Until then, people caught on camera blowing through one of the city's red lights won't get a ticket.

Davie, North Bay Village and El Portal are not talking about eliminating their camera programs, but they will stop issuing tickets until the special hearing boards are set up.

Other cities managed to create a special hearing system in time for the Monday deadline -- barely.

Coral Gables' city commission adopted an emergency ordinance to create administrative hearings, but hasn't figured out where to hold them.

For now, drivers who contest their tickets will probably do so in the basement of the police station, said city attorney Craig Leen.

Hollywood also hasn't worked out the details of how the new hearings will be conducted, said city spokeswoman Raelin Storey.

But the city plans to be ready by the time drivers ticketed on Monday receive their citations, which can take about a month.

"The legislation doesn't give a time frame for when you have to be ready to go with this," Storey said. "The new legislation goes into effect July 1, but there's nothing saying the first hearing has to be July 1."

In the meantime, she said, Hollywood will expand the special magistrate process it uses for code enforcement hearings to cover red-light camera citation hearings.

Homestead also plans to make use of the lag time between when drivers get their tickets and when their appeals are held.

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