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Kubosh prepares to sue

He’s had his day in court for his civil citation for running a red light at a camera-enabled intersection, and now Michael Kubosh is fixing to file that lawsuit he’s been promising to do.

Michael Kubosh said Sunday that he will argue the city cannot impose a civil penalty on drivers who run red lights.

“The city has gone outside their legislative authority,” said Kubosh, who will be represented in court by his brother, lawyer Paul Kubosh. “We just can’t let this go because accidents increase at intersections where these things are put up.”

That fact is clearly in dispute, but as we’ve seen before, Kubosh is a little free with such statements.

State lawmakers debated for years whether municipalities should be able to issue civil citations to red-light runners using camera technology. In 2003, they amended the traffic code to permit the civil enforcement of vehicle safety standards under state law or municipal ordinance.

Kubosh called that an “obscure provision” that does not allow the city to go ahead with its program.

City Attorney Arturo Michel responded that argument won’t hold up in court. It doesn’t matter under what bill the provision was approved, he said.

“Courts look at what the words say,” he said. “The plain language of the rules allows us to regulate.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in June said the Texas Department of Transportation “may also install cameras on state highway rights-of-way to monitor compliance with traffic-control signals.”

[…]

[Kubosh] argues the city cannot issue civil citations to offenders because that conflicts with state law, which defines running a red light as a misdemeanor criminal offense. Offenders caught by police can face a fine up to $200.

Getting caught on camera, however, is a civil violation that carries a $75 fine. The ticket goes to the owner of the vehicle, or the last person to register it, not necessarily the driver. Those who are ticketed are expected to pay the fine or contest the penalty in court.

“The city’s administrative enforcement procedure deprives traffic-ticket defendants of their constitutional rights, such as the right to trial by jury, the right to remain silent, the right to confront witnesses against them, and the right to have their guilt proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” reads a draft of the lawsuit.

Those rights are reserved for criminal offenders, not civil.

I’m not a lawyer, but I can’t say I’m impressed by the case Kubosh is making here. Still, as this report by the House Research Organization (PDF, hat tip to Newswatch) points out, there is no clear law on the subject, so who knows what a court may do. One possibility, given the opinion of AG Greg Abbott and pending legislation by Sen. Carona that would clearly legitimize some cameras, is that they’re upheld for TxDOT-controlled intersections but not for others. We’ll see how it goes.

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