Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Suit claims drivers charged excessive traffic camera fines Staff

SEATTLE – A class action lawsuit has been filed against 19 Washington cities, saying fines doled out to drivers caught on automatic red light and speed cameras are higher than the law allows.

Attorneys are basing the suit on a state law that was passed by the State Legislature in 2005. The law states “the amount of the fine issued for an infraction generated through the use of an automated traffic safety camera shall not exceed the amount of a fine issued for other parking infractions within the jurisdiction.

The attorneys contend the purpose of the camera law was to increase traffic safety, not to raise revenue.

Based on the law, the attorneys argue that if a city’s highest parking ticket is $40, that’s the most you can be fined if you are caught on an automatic traffic camera. But, most cities charge anywhere from $101 to $124 if you’re caught by a camera – the same as if an on duty officer had caught you themselves.

The cities named in the lawsuit are: Auburn; Bonney Lake; Bremerton; Burien; Federal Way; Fife; Issaquah; Lacey; Lake Forest Park; Lakewood; Lynnwood; Monroe; Moses Lake; Puyallup; Renton; SeaTac; Seattle; Spokane; and Tacoma.

The suit claims, in some cases, the cities are charging up to four times more than the law allows.

The law only allows cities to use the cameras at two-arterial intersections, railroad crossings and school speed zones.

The suit seeks restitution for anyone who has received an excessive fine in Washington and an injunction to stop assessing excess fines.

The case has been assigned to King County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell.