Sv Photo Radar Ticket Overturned

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Each day in Star Valley, one in every 286 motorists drives fast enough to trigger one of four photo enforcement cameras positioned strategically along Highway 260.

Michele Ann Power of Chandler was one of those drivers. While heading through town on a sunny July afternoon in 2009, her vehicle tripped a camera and a few weeks later, she got a ticket in the mail for speeding.

Outraged, Power decided to fight the ticket.

Last week, Power argued her case in front of Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill in a Payson courtroom and won.

Cahill reversed the decision of the Star Valley Magistrate Court and dismissed the traffic complaint against Power.

“Oh my God, I am so ecstatic,” Power said in a telephone interview.

Power argued that because the town of Star Valley failed to provide someone to cross-examine in court, the ticket is dismissible.

Cahill agreed.

Now, another person has filed an appeal of their ticket.

Cahill would not comment on his ruling.

Star Valley Town Manager/Attorney Tim Grier said this is the first time a Star Valley photo enforcement ticket recipient orally argued their case in an appeals hearing.

Of the thousands of tickets issued since the cameras were installed beginning in January of 2008, only a handful of motorists have appealed the magistrate’s ruling, Grier said.

Power was one of the few to have her ticket dismissed. Grier disagreed with the decision.

“The fact is, Michele Power put others in danger and she got away with it on a technicality,” he said.

Grier believes one of the issues that influenced Cahill’s ruling is the fact that the photo enforcement officer who issued Power’s citation no longer works for the town.

When the town issued Power’s ticket, Nofi Barak-Turner worked as the town’s photo enforcement officer. Since then, Turner has moved to Israel and Sharon Rappaport took over the position.

When Power asked to cross-examine someone about her ticket at trial, the town did not have anyone to answer those questions, since Turner had left.

Arguing without an attorney, Power said since the town could not certify the complaint, the court should dismiss it.

Unfortunately, Turner does not work here anymore and it meant someone got away with speeding, Grier said.

“She (Power) got the dumb luck of her (Turner) being out of the country,” Grier said. “But she broke the law and got away with it. She put herself and others at danger.”

Power’s traffic citation found she was going 56 mph when she came into town. Star Valley’s posted speed limit is 45 mph. The cameras go off when a motorists is traveling 11 mph over the limit.

Power believes she was only going 45 mph.

RedFlex Traffic Systems calibrates the cameras and maintains them for accuracy. When a camera takes a photo, three employees at RedFlex inspect it and, using information from the DMV, verify that the driver matches the photo.

Based on gender, height, weight, hair and eye color, employees can normally determine if the driver matches the vehicle’s registration information.

If the town does not receive a response after mailing the ticket, a representative physically serves it. Power was served at her Chandler home.

“We have the right to serve in state and out,” Grier said.

“In Power’s case, I have no doubt that she was driving at the time,” he said.

Officially served, Power decided to fight the ticket. When Star Valley Magistrate Judge John Huffman found her responsible, Power appealed the ruling.

“When they came out with photo enforcement down here, I immediately started researching it,” she said.

Nearly two years after getting her ticket, Power argued her case in front of Cahill.

Power said she opposes the cameras in general and believes towns are using them illegally.

When Star Valley issued her ticket, no one was there to witness the alleged speeding. Without a witness, Power had no one to cross-examine in court.

“The only eye witness was me, and that is why these cameras are so messed up,” she said.

Power believes towns and cities are only using the cameras to make money, not to improve safety.

“They are for revenue only because they are not keeping the drunk drivers off the streets,” she said. Grier disagreed.

Since the cameras were installed in Star Valley, speed-related accidents have drastically decreased, he said.

The average speed of vehicles going by the cameras is 42 to 45 mph.

“Statistics have shown in many places, including Star Valley, the cameras help. We have had no (speed-related) fatalities since they were put in,” he said. “They do make things safer.”

A November 2007 study by the Arizona Department of Transportation found traffic speeds and crashes dropped on Loop 101 in Scottsdale after cameras were in place. Traffic speeds dropped by about 9 mph and all types of crashes declined except for rear-end crashes, where the change was not statistically significant, ADOT concluded.

In Star Valley, most speeding accidents involve wildlife, mainly elk crossing the highway.

Since the town had the cameras installed, those accidents have decreased, although Grier did not have any numbers to prove this.

“I adamantly believe Star Valley is a safer place,” he said. “Traffic goes slower through Star Valley and you can see it. I don’t know how anyone could argue against that.”

Grier believes if Star Valley’s cameras have saved one life, then they are worth it.

Comments

Dan Varnes 3 years, 8 months ago

Quote-Tim Greir: “The fact is, Michele Power put others in danger and she got away with it on a technicality...”

Not "fact" at all.

The actual fact is that an automated camera took someone's photo. Without an officer to issue a citation, it's all a "trust" issue. Money-hungry city employees hope you'll trust them and accept the premise that their magic electronic wizardry is always accurate and infallible. Time and case history has proven that to be a false assumption.

Another major factor is that by waiting weeks to inform a driver of their supposed "crime," the validity of the allegation is lost. How is a driver supposed to remember the details of that day? Without that, how can a citizen mount a proper defense? Shall we automatically trust any and all allegations made by any government bureaucracy? I don't think so.

Regarding Star Valley Town Manager/Attorney Tim Grier's comments, I didn't know that we had such an arrogant bureaucrat in our neighboring town. Now, I have one more reason to not spend any money in their wide-spot-in-the-road / speed trap.

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Dan Haapala 3 years, 8 months ago

Varnes, is your arguement that a cop didn't get credit for a ticket? Didn't earn a paycheck? What are you thinking? Speeding is speeding and thankfully technology is making it harder to disobey state traffic laws. As a past police officer, I was upset when ARS 28-701 changed and ' reasonable and prudent speed' was thrown out; However, I believe that giving motorists the benefit of '11 MPH' over the posted speed limit is excessive and when one does exceed that, and there picture is taken doing so, THEY ARE GUILTY OF SPEEDING. The law is the law. I am of the personal belief that the basic disregard of the law starts and ends with misdemeanors, and traffic ordinances are a perfect example. When we chose to not to enforce speeding and other traffic offenses, the law became less important. If one law is not important...then which law or laws are important?

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Sean Hitch 1 year, 6 months ago

I do think the photo enforcement keeps people honest when driving. Which is good. However, the negative emotions towards the town that will result from natural psychological, will result in avoidance of the location and negative reviews given by word of mouth. For each iffy ticket the possible speed trap in star valley gives, the restaurants in the area, the bed n breakfast, the camping supply story is loosing not one customer, but all potential customers who hear the negative feedback. A friend in show low goes out of his way to avoid Payson, and does all his shopping in Flagstaff. Loss of money for the community business owners. In Phoenix, the notion of Payson is, ohh its so far away, why go there. Its not, did you hear about that great hidden restaurant, great beautiful drive and awesome food.

Photo enforcement is one way, but not the only way. Considering the fact that the photo enforcement on the east bound of star valley is only 300 feet away (less then a football field away) from the small posted speed limit sign of 45, without a photo-enforcement plate, one has to wonder if in the real world that gives enough time for someone to adjust their measurement to the posted measurement.

And if safty was a concern, the city could take the revenue from just 1 ticket, and buy a larger speed limit sign. A speed sign like the small towns in New Mexico on the same highway use and found effective.

But worst of all about the photo-enforcement, as a hobbyist photographer writing this, is that the operator of the unit is using ridiculously bright flash bulbs. From the beginning of the flash to the end, its apparent that I was able to blink. Which puts the bulb flash time around 1/8th of a second. Other towns say their flash time is around 1/2000th of second. However it is logical that if the flash starts and the completely detailed color photo in the middle of the night occurs after a person has the time to close their eyes and squint, that its way over 1/2000th of a second. Which is a clear violation of the city of star-towns own city ordinances to not obstruct drivers view.

"Flash blindness is visual impairment during and following exposure to a light flash of extremely high intensity.[1] It may last for a few seconds to a few minutes." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_bl...

A bright flash approaching a stop light! 30 months for a kid pointing laser pointers at air planes.. Worse yet, many theaters with acrobatic performs specifically ban low flash cameras as they can cause injury or death to the acrobat. Flashes of lights into people faces is just a common sense no! And any device that flashes that brightly (which is provable from the photo the town sent me) can cause temporary blindness. Possible blindness for a few minutes is a clear violation of city ordinances. And that is before the health concerns of seizures, etc..etc.. Responsible people just don't flash bright lights in drivers faces in the dark of night.

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