Wednesday, February 29, 2012

challenging DC's speed camera fines

Okay, let's put this out there for community discussion:

Some commentary on Lisa Sutter`s statements

First, see this response from Lisa Sutter to John Salatti:

From: Sutter, Lisa (MPD)
Date: Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 8:10 AM
Subject: Quick question

To: ``john.salatti @``

Dear John,

Over the past few days, NBC and Fox5 have been covering an effort by citizens to have folks sign a petition at to lower fines for speed enforcement in the District. Our response is below. I was wondering if you would consider asking folks in your area to weigh in on this topic. If you have any questions, please let me know. Thanks!

In 2010, the fines for the most frequent traffic violations in the District were increased to align with the significantly higher fines in Maryland and Virginia. Before the increase, in DC, speeding 11-15 miles per hour (MPH) over the speed limit incurred a fine of $50. In Maryland the fine is $90, and at $126, Virginia`s fine was more than twice that of DC. At 20 MPD over the speed limit, Maryland`s fine increases to $160, and in Virginia, the speeder must appear in court. Some drivers seemed to treat the District`s lower fines as a pass to speed up once they reached District streets. Therefore the District raised its fine to deter illegal and dangerous driving.

Although Maryland has lower fines for automated tickets, District fines for automated traffic enforcement violations remained the same as officer-issued fines. Since one of the primary objectives of an Automated Traffic Enforcement program is to serve as a force multiplier so that individuals obey traffic laws even without an officer on the corner, it would not be logical to have lower fines for these tickets. As it is, drivers do not get points on their record for the Automated Traffic Enforcement tickets.

In our densely populated city, there is a higher risk for collisions between vehicles and pedestrians and bicyclists, and speeding increases the risk of serious injuries or fatalities in the event of a collision. An adult pedestrian hit by a car going 30 mph has an 80% chance of living. If the car is going 40 mph, there is an 80% chance that the pedestrian will be fatally injured. Traffic safety is more important now than ever with the population and development in the District rising, and more bicyclists on the road.

The bottom line is that motorists who obey the posted speed limit do not have to worry about the fines for tickets.

Lisa Sutter, Program Manager
Metropolitan Police Department
Homeland Security Bureau
(202) 492 - 1150
lisa.sutter @

Now read this response from a Rhode Island Avenue NW resident:

For dissemination and further discussion.

I, too, join the general disgust with the rationale proffered by MPD's Lisa Sutter. There are, among other things, potential constitutional law violations that come to mind when discussing the legality of unsupervised red light and speed cameras - both of which have become pervasive within the District in the last 10 years. Ms. Sutter's analysis does not make any rational sense and even she concedes that the dollar amount of violations are not consistent across the jurisdictions. Lastly, I think it foolish that we are the only jurisdiction (of the three in our area) that continue to engage in what ought to be considered predatory enforcement and penalization for fairly routine infractions. Now, folks may say 'well, I don't speed - and you shouldn't too' but that's an unfair assertion given the facts of daily life and how we all reconcile our individual behaviors to daily reality. My opinion is that I might well deserve a ticket - just not one that results in a windfall to DC and their service vendors at my expense.

Here's an interesting article about the legality of red light cameras which I believe has relevance in forming a better understanding of the history, applications, legal challenges, etc...

Lastly, to whomever is organizing the petition, I join you in that fight and would consider taking the matter one step further by considering the pressing of a legal challenge. There are due process considerations in the presumption of innocence, or the lack of such presumption, here. Fundamentally, due process is a linchpin of the Constitution and ought not be disregarded and dismissed so cavalierly as has been done by MPD. This is not merely about efficiency and increasing safety - we shouldn't consider the smoke and mirror response as conclusive of the motivation for the rampant exploitation of this technology simply for the sake of it.


Jeremy said...

I agree with the last line in Lisa's email, "The bottom line is that motorists who obey the posted speed limit do not have to worry about the fines for tickets." Lower speeds = safe streets.

If you have to get a $75 ticket because you were caught speeding - that sucks...

The fine schedule is public (,a,1240,q,547984,mpdcNav_GID,1552,mpdcNav,|31886|.asp) for automated speed cameras.
So are the locations (,a,1240,q,547991,mpdcNav_GID,1552,mpdcNav,|31886|.asp).

If you know you can't afford a ticket if you get one, DON'T SPEED!!

I support MPD and DC's efforts in making our streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other motorists.

Ali said...

I believe that fines should be this high, or higher - the whole point is to deter ILLEGAL ACTIVITY - it's not as if you are getting a tax on all driving or something like that. People who do illegal things should bear the consequences of those actions, especially when those illegal things endanger our youth, our elderly, our selves - and especially those people walking and biking (giving you more space on the road!)

mona said...

There is a really easy solution to this...SLOW DOWN!!!

Swivelneck said...

So, you people are saying that on New york Avenue, where it is 3 lanes each way and I was going with the flow of traffic, that I should pay the $125 ticket I got in the mail today. I was going 12 over what is apparently a 35 mph speed limit. I am from Baltimore and do not regularly drive in DC. There are a thousands signs and distractions all around, so the safest thing is to go with the traffic flow. I live on a residential street with a 30 mph speed limit. On my street, the ticket for speeding if caught by the cameras is $40. $125 is about a month of groceries for my son and I. That is insane. This is not even remotely about speed. It is about money at that amount. Screw DC.

Unknown said...

I agree with the comments...except that the speed limits in many of the areas that have speed cameras are hopelessly outdated and do not reflect common driving practices. For example, I got a ticket for going 46 MPH on Canal Road coming back into the city. On that road virtually no drivers go less than 50 MPH, and I have actually been PASSED on numerous occasions for going 45 mph on that road. If the speed limits reflect a safe speed then I have no problem with unsafe drivers being ticketed. But if the speed limits are set so that drivers who are merely following the general traffic patterns are getting $125 tickets then the cameras seem more like a cash generator than a safety enhancer. Furthermore, now that the Canal Road camera is operational I frequently see cars going 60-70 MPH as they fly past Chain Bridge Road and Arizona only to slam on the brakes for one block so that they don't get caught by the camera. That hardly seems like it's promoting the general welfare to me.