Red-light camera controversy in Las Cruces moves to federal court
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Red-light cameras that communities install to catch drivers speeding or running stop signs cause some people to see red.
In Santa Fe earlier this year, a 63-year-old became a statewide Internet video sensation when, clad in a nightshirt, he fired five shots at a speed camera set up on Bishops Lodge Road.
Last fall in Albuquerque, voters defied objections from Mayor Richard Berry and other city officials who insisted that red light cameras improve public safety when 53.4 percent voted to get rid of them.
Now, a lawsuit in Las Cruces calling for elimination of the cameras that originated as a local matter is heading to federal court because the city says the specifics of the case amount to questions of due process and civil rights.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit say the red light camera program — called the Safe Traffic Operations Program (STOP) — violates the US Constitution because the photos taken by the cameras amoun to hearsay evidence against drivers cited for running red lights.
From the Las Cruces Sun-News:
When a vehicle owner currently receives a STOP citation in the mail, the plaintiffs say the owner is required to say they were driving the vehicle, violating their 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
The city counters that its municipal code is civil, and that therefore constitutional amendments’ regulating criminal protections are not applicable. The city’s attorney is also asking that the lawsuit be dismissed.
The case was originally filed in state court but has now been moved to US District Court.
This isn’t the first time the red-light camera issue has ruffled feathers in Las Cruces.
City officials received heavy criticism earlier this year when they threatened to shut off the water, sewage and gas of homeowners who had not paid the fines they had run up from red-light camera violations.
Oh, and if you want to re-live the actions of the night-shirted shooter in Santa Fe, here’s the video of the guy dubbed the Speedcam Commando:
Hat tip to Aaron Henry Diaz.