November 23, 2010
A motorist recently received a photo red light ticket in the mail for allegedly running a red light by a trivial 0.2 seconds at the Scottsdale Rd. and Shea Blvd. intersection in Scottsdale. Interestingly, none of the photos taken clearly show the driver. This didn’t stop Scottsdale Police Officer Debra (Debbie) Wood from signing the citation and declaring “I hereby certify that I have reasonable grounds to believe, and do believe, based on my examination of digital images and data associated with this violation, that the person named herein committed the civil traffic violation listed above.” According to ARS 28-1561.B, a false certification is perjury.
We have to wonder how Debra Wood was able to identify the driver of the vehicle in question with most facial features hidden by the vehicles sun visor and rear view mirror. In fact, it’s not even possible to identify the gender of the driver with any certainty. We know that Arizona courts have ruled on at least 3 occasions that a gender match alone is not sufficient to establish reasonable grounds of belief required to issue a ticket. So how exactly did Officer Wood identify the driver?
In the pursuit of filling Scottsdale and Redflex’s coffers, it appears to us that Officer Wood knowingly and purposefully committed perjury, as the images simply do not provide enough information (reasonable grounds) required to identify the driver and thus to issue a ticket legally. If ever tried and convicted, Officer Wood is at risk of losing her POST certification.
April 23, 2010
From the beginning, scamera vendors and officials have attempted to quell concerns of legitimacy by stating that an officer will review each and every citation. The problem is, no one ever asked exactly what they’d be reviewing. We should have known better…
In an Oct 2009 court ruling from the Maricopa County Superior Court, a judge has ruled that a photo traffic complaint is not properly issued if an officer merely matches that the sex of the person in the photo matches the sex of the vehicle registrant.
A.R.S. § 28-1561 states that traffic complaints need to contain a certification “by the issuing officer in substance as follows: ‘I hereby certify that I have reasonable grounds to believe and do believe that the person named herein committed the offense or civil violation described herein contrary to law.’” However, an aide from the Tempe police department testified that they only match sex, and do not look at physical descriptions.
Therefore, the court concluded that the traffic complaint was improperly issued because the officer did NOT have reasonable grounds to believe that the defendant committed the offense. That doesn’t seem to have had any effect on procedures, as the police still issue tickets even with obvious race and appearance mismatches. They get away with it because judges don’t seem to want to enforce section B of the statutes which states:
B. A false certification under the provisions of subsection A is perjury.
The intent of the perjury provision is to help ensure that police do not abuse their power by issuing false citations. The reality is that this is what the photo enforcement programs have been about since their inception. They issue known false citations by the hundreds and thousands, as evidenced by court statistics. Most people are happy when their case is dismissed because they don’t resemble the person in the photo; however, anyone receiving a photo ticket where the officer clearly made a false certification needs to take measures to see that the responsible officer be charged with perjury as is appropriate under this statute. Only enforcement of the perjury provision under this statute will have any effect on curbing this attack on the innocent. Of course, the end of all photo enforcement in Arizona in November will achieve that as also.