In the red light camera courtNovember 17th, 2008 by travis baker
The in basket: In the previous Road Warrior, we looked at claims that the yellow lights at some of the Bremerton intersections where cameras record red light violations are unfairly short.
The inquiry led me to the court of Bremerton Municipal Judge Pro Tem Amanda Harvey for a calendar of red light enforcement hearings, where I was enlightened and surprised by some of the things I saw.
The out basket: John Hamby of Central Kitsap was among those hoping to avoid the $124 fine for running a red light, on northbound Warren Avenue at 11th Street in his case.
John was reluctant to concede that the video of his infraction, which he watched in the court office before seeing it in the courtroom, showed that he was guilty. But the video showed him getting the standard three seconds of yellow and then just missing getting into the intersection before it turned red.
Judge Harvey tells those who appear before her that if they contest the ticket and lose that she will impose the full $124. Those who “mitigate” it, conceding the violation but offering an explanation, may have the fine reduced.
John saw the way the wind was blowing and “mitigated,” as did everyone else in court that day who had been caught by a cameras running the red light. Harvey knocked off $34 from his fine. I didn’t see anyone who mitigated not receive at least $34 off. One white-haired woman got a $64 reduction.
Elected Municipal Court Judge Jim Docter tells me what I saw was pretty typical of what occurs in camera court each day.
Bremerton Finance Officer Cathy Johnson says revenue from the cameras is keeping up with expectations anyway. It came to $546,000 from April through September, she said. Also as expected, the number of tickets per month has dropped, which proponents will regard as a sign of success for the program.
Many of the tickets were dismissed the day I was in court. Those drivers testified under oath that they weren’t in the car at the time of the infraction. Some said a friend or relative had the car, or that it was in the shop and probably was out for a test drive at the time.
Harvey universally dismissed every ticket upon such a claim from the car owner. I’m told the city doesn’t check on the truth of those excuses. But if a person somehow got caught lying, he or should could be charged with perjury, a felony with a much steeper penalty than $124.
I was struck by the large number of tickets issued for a right turns on red, in which the driver didn’t come to a complete stop. There were a lot more of them than those for running a red light while proceeding through the intersection or turning left.
A Chinese fellow who needed an interpreter to make his case alibied that he’d watched since he was cited and that everyone rolls through the 11th and Warren right turn just like he did. Perhaps so, Harvey said, but it’s still illegal. She cut his fine by $44.
I realize that I often am just shy of a complete stop when I make such turns, especially when a complete stop would mean a pack of approaching cars on the intersecting street would then keep me from making the turn until they had all passed.
I have had to remind myself to do it legally, especially at the camera-enforced intersections in Bremerton.
I also learned that the cameras record the speed of the cars, but that can’t be used to support a speeding citation. It’s part of how the camera knows when to record a violation.