FL attorneys: fight your red light tickets

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Legislation to ban red light cameras is a hot topic in Tallahassee and in appeals courts across the state.

The cameras, still widely used in the Bay Area, could soon be ruled unconstitutional, as two local appeals courts have already found.

It's great news for those who hate the cameras and their $158 fines, but it also leaves many wondering what to do if they've recently been issued a red light camera ticket.

Attorneys FOX 13 News spoke to echoed the same advice: contest.

"Fight it. Don't just roll over and pay the ticket because there's a lot of things that are going on right now that will affect these red light tickets," said Tampa-based defense attorney Anthony Rickman.

Kelli Hastings, an Orlando-based appeals attorney recently fought her citation and won. Hastings says she used the same argument attorneys in south Florida successfully used to dispute the legality of the tickets.

"The city is not supposed to delegate its police power to a private entity so I thought maybe this is time to fight it," said Hastings, who received notice last Friday that she'd won her appeal in the ninth judicial circuit in Orange County. "I had thought about just paying it and being done with the issue, but the more I looked at it, I thought, 'this is wrong and shouldn't be happening.'"

Orlando, as well as Tampa and numerous cities across the state, contracts with American Traffic Solutions to run its red light camera program.

ATS pre-screens footage of all potential violations. It then sends images of potential violations to the city for review. Once the city gives the green light, ATS will issue a violation notification with a payment address in Tempe, AZ.

Hastings successfully argued, that gives police power to a private company - a violation of state law.

"Set up that way, it's an improper delegation of police power," explained Hastings. "The bottom line is that a private company shouldn't be deciding if you get a ticket. That's for the local police to do. It creates a breeding ground for corruption."

Attorneys suggest, if you want to contest a violation notice, which they all recommend, you should first contact a law firm like Ticket Clinic, versed in red light camera law. According to Ticket Clinic defense attorney Jeff Reynolds, lawyer fees will run between $75 and $150, depending on circumstances.

He also advised not to appeal immediately. Both Reynolds and Hastings say you'll have a better chance to contest your ticket in front of a true county court judge once you've been issued a uniform traffic citation. 

A big word of caution, however, if you do allow a ticket to go to that second stage, the uniform traffic citation will increase to $277. At that point, there's no going back. Paying the fine will put a conviction on your driving record and not paying it can lead to a license suspension.

It's a steep penalty lawyers say is in place to intimidate drivers into just paying the fines.