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Challenging red light camera tickets proving difficult

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- So far, a new law that makes it easier for drivers to appeal questionable red light camera (RLC) violations hasn't helped drivers in Tampa Bay.

Not one of the five drivers who has argued a RLC violation in front of a local magistrate so far has succeeded, despite several of them having grounds to contest the ticket.

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St. Petersburg is the first Tampa Bay city to hold the appeal hearings, where a local magistrate -- often a private attorney -- hears the case instead of a county judge. But drivers who unsuccessfully contest tickets face additional fees of up to $250 in addition to the original $158 fine.

Most cities are charging $100 for the administrative fee, but New Port Richey, Bradenton, and Clearwater are among the cities that are currently reserving their right to charge "up to $250" for anyone who unsuccessfully appeals a violation.

10 News cannot provide legal advice, but can provide tools that might help you if you decide to challenge a red light camera ticket:

Tools to help challenge a red light camera violation (going straight):

  • Was the yellow light at the RLC long enough? Use 10 News' map of local intersections to see if the light met the state's minimum.
  • In May, the state admitted the minimum was too short for many Florida drivers and ordered an increase in the minimum by an additional 0.4 seconds by the end of the year. This September memo has the new minimums.  Has this light been too short for drivers to safely react? Would that 0.4 seconds have made a difference in your violation?
  • Were you the one driving the vehicle?  If not, be prepared for the magistrate to ask you to assign the violation to another driver.

Tools to help challenge a "rolling right" violation:

  • The law requires the city or county to prove your turn was not done in a "safe & prudent" manner. But as 10 News showed this summer, many "safe & prudent" turns are still ticketed even though a judge would often overturn them.
  • 10 News also showed the RLC's speed sensors are not always accurate, especially on right turns. This is relevant because some cities and counties use speed to define "safe & prudent".
  • A 2011 Federal Highway Administration study in Illinois showed the magnetic vehicle sensors malfunction 12% of the time in ideal weather, often registering faster-than-actual speeds.
  • Were you the one driving the vehicle? If not, be prepared for the magistrate to ask you to assign the violation to another driver.


  • Failure to win your appeal will likely result in an additional "administrative fee" tacked onto your fine, charged by the city or county, to pay for the hearing.
  • Fees are typically in the $100 range and vary by municipality, but some run as much as an additional $250.
  • As other media outlets have suggested, the burden of proof is seemingly shifted to the defendent and even the most innocent of drivers may have trouble disproving his/her guilt.  If you disapprove of the current system, speak to your local legislator and lobby for change.

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter.


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