Court rules in Oldsmar’s favor in red-light camera case

Red-light cameras in Oldsmar have not been in operation since 2015, when the city discontinued using them due to a slew of lawsuits as well as dissatisfaction with the program.

Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals recently filed an opinion in a case that could have wide ranging ramifications for the fledgling red-light camera industry in the state.

The court’s landmark ruling in the City of Oldsmar and Attorney General Pam Biondi v. Tammy Vo Trinh found that municipalities have the right under Mark Wandell Traffic Safety Act to contract with private companies to review potential red-light camera violations and mail violation notices to offenders.

The decision reverses the original Pinellas County Court case granting Trinh a dismissal of the red-light camera citation she received in Oldsmar based on a 2014 ruling by the Fourth District Court of Appeals in a case in Hollywood, Florida.

“The city was successful in the appeal before the Second District (Court),” Oldsmar City Attorney Tom Trask said during the Nov. 1 City Council meeting. “It is a major win for the red-light camera industry, and it was almost immediately appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. We will be circulating a memo so that you understand the significance of that particular win for the city of Oldsmar. You’ve put yourself on the map by that win.”

According to attorney Ed Guedes, who represented Oldsmar in this case and has represented more than 40 cities and counties throughout the state in related red-light litigation, the ruling, along with other similar decisions, paves the way for municipalities to utilize the controversial form of traffic enforcement without the fear of repercussion.

“These two decisions are both comparably important,” the Miami-based Guedes said, referring to the Oldsmar case as well as a decision made by the Third District Court of Appeals in Aventura, Florida, in July. “After almost two full years of local governments being scared of litigation, many of them having been sued in federal court … effectively, red-light camera enforcement all but disappeared. So this is a critical pivot in what has been two very unfortunate years of red-light enforcement. Now the many cities in the second and many cities in the third district can now resume their programs and can continue their enforcement of red-light violations.”

While the ruling allows for the continuation of red-light camera programs, many municipalities, including Oldsmar, have no intention of doing so.

According to Oldsmar Mayor Bevis, a longtime opponent of the program, the city had already stopped using their cameras prior to the case going to trial, and there are no plans to starting it back up.

“While it’s exciting to be on the winning side, we ended our contract with (national red-light camera provider) ATS last year, so it really won’t have any effect on us moving forward,” Bevis said following the Nov. 1 council meeting. “We didn’t appropriate funds for it in 2015, and as far as I know, we are not restarting it. But it shows that all the citations that were mailed out at that time were valid. So it is a vindication of some sort for the cities who challenged the earlier court rulings.”