TAMPA (FOX 13) - The Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling Thursday that could end the debate about whether red light cameras are legal.
In a unanimous decision, the justices ruled local governments can continue to use red light cameras as long as the decision to write a ticket remains with law enforcement.
The state Supreme Court was reviewing a case that challenged whether it was legal for municipalities to give red light camera companies the ability to review possible violations before passing them on to law enforcement.
"They've been given broad review powers to basically do everything except for determine probable cause," said Tampa attorney and legal expert Anthony Rickman, referring to red light camera companies. "As long as they were reviewing just to make sure the citation is able to be written, the tag is able to be read, the vehicle is able to be described, you can see a person behind the wheel, that review is OK. And if that review occurs, then it can be sent onto the officer to write a citation."
The ruling also has another immediate impact, according to Tampa civil rights lawyer Michael Maddux.
"There was a class-action lawsuit that's kind of been waiting for the Florida Supreme Court to speak, so in essence, that's sort of the death knell of that," Maddux told FOX 13.
The lawsuit was an attempt to force governments to reimburse drivers who were ticketed.
The controversial cameras have been at the center of debate since cities and counties began installing them several years ago; advocates believe the devices save lives, while critics have argued they cause more accidents.
A 2016 study conducted by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles determined crashes at intersections with red light cameras were up more than 10 percent after the devices were installed. At more than 20 intersections in Tampa Bay, accidents increased between 20 and 50 percent.
Drivers who have received citations have other concerns.
"What have we gotten to now, where a private company that is in bed with a local government agency to write people tickets?" asked Russell Rich of Tampa, who recently received a red light camera ticket. "I just feel like Big Brother is here watching over us on every corner."
To that point, Maddux said this ruling will likely have another impact.
"It really empowers the people that want to have privatization of government function," he said.
Drivers who receive a red-light ticket are fined $158.
Prior to the Florida Supreme Court ruling, judges at the district and appellate levels had some to different opinions regarding the constitutionality of red light cameras.