The Florida Supreme Court will review whether Aventura circumvented state traffic laws by creating a controversial city-run red-light camera program.
Red-light cameras have been a hot-button issue since cities in 2008 across Florida began installing cameras at intersections, then mailing violations to surprised drivers.
Critics said the citations were heavy-handed cash grabs by cities, while supporters said the cameras were aimed at cutting down on traffic wrecks at dangerous intersections.
Between 2008 and July 2010, red-light camera violations were not state traffic tickets but city “code violations.” In Aventura, motorists contesting violations had to go to hearings at City Hall — which they claimed were biased and unfair.
Lawsuits followed, and in February 2010, a Miami-Dade judge ruled that Aventura’s enforcement system circumvented state traffic laws. Aventura created the first red-light program in Miami-Dade.
But a Miami appeals court overturned the judge’s decision, saying the program was indeed lawful.
The Florida Supreme Court took up the issue because of conflicting decisions by appeals courts: in Orlando, judges ruled that the city’s program did indeed circumvent state law.
In response to the uproar about the programs, the Florida Legislature passed a new law that made red-light camera infractions a state violation. The statute went into effect July 1, 2010, and violations are now heard in front of traffic court magistrates.
The Supreme Court will hear the issue in the case of Richard Masone, who sued Aventura, and Michael Udowychenko, who sued Orlando.
Any decision by the state’s high court will not affect tickets issued after July 2010. But if the Florida Supreme Court rules against city-run red-light programs, it would invalidate at least two years of violations issued by the municipalities.
“If the Supreme Court rules that the red-light cameras programs run by the cities are illegal, all moneys collected will have to be given back. It was outright theft,” said Bret Lusskin, of Hallandale, one of Masone’s attorney.