Orange circuit judge Frederick Lauten ruled Monday that nearly 50,000 tickets issued to motorists caught by automatic cameras running red lights in Orlando during the past two years should be dismissed. The effect of Judge Lauten’s ruling may require the city of Orlando to refund more than $4 million paid in fines. But because the ruling is almost certain to be appealed, it may be years before there’s a final decision.
In his ruling, Judge Lauten ruled that “Although the court believes the city’s articulated goal is laudable — increasing public safety by reducing red light-running — the challenged city ordinance intrudes on an area of law reserved to the state is therefore invalid,” Lauten wrote. The ruling doesn’t mean Orlando will be turning its cameras off, because the Legislature changed the law earlier this year to allow enforcement cameras. But it would seem to throw out nearly 50,000 tickets mailed to violators before the new law took effect July 1. Orlando city attorney’s certainly will appeal the judge’s ruling.
Regardless, Lauten’s opinion could have implications for drivers photographed blowing through red lights across Florida. The judge’s decision did not touch on ticket refunds or damages. The city issued 48,579 red-light tickets from Sept. 1, 2008, to July 1, when the law changed. It had levied more than $6.2 million in fines and collected $4.3 million. Refund checks wouldn’t show up in mailboxes anytime soon. An appeal could take 18 months or more.