An Aventura police officer legally issued a ticket to a driver for making an illegal right turn on a red light that was captured by the city’s red-light cameras, a district appellate court ruled Wednesday.
The ruling, in essence, upholds Aventura’s controversial red-light cameras, the first such program in the county and which has been the subject of several lawsuits since the program began in 2008.
“The decision is vindication for municipalities who have continued to defend the program,” said Attorney Ed Guedes, who represents Aventura.
In 2015, Miami-Dade County Court Judge Steven Leifman dismissed Luis Torres Jimenez’s ticket for making an illegal right turn on red after Jimenez’s attorney cited a previous case — City of Hollywood vs. Arem — that challenged the cameras.
In the Hollywood case, the 4th District Court of Appeals, which covers Broward, ruled in October 2014 that Hollywood was breaking the law when it allowed the company hired to run the cameras to issue tickets and not police officers. State law says that only local police or sheriff’s officers can enforce traffic laws.
The city of Aventura appealed Leifman’s ruling saying Hollywood’s case was different because police officers issue the tickets, not the vendor. In a 37-page ruling issued Wednesday, the 3rd District Court of Appeal agreed. But the court urged the Florida Supreme Court to take up the issue because it has “great public importance.”
Guedes said Hollywood’s case set off a chain of complaints filed in courts across the state challenging red-light tickets. Several municipalities also pulled their programs for fear they’d be sued. Red-light cameras have been a source of contention since 2010, when the Florida Legislature passed the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, which allowed local governments to use cameras to enforce traffic laws.
In his suit, Jimenez contended that Aventura gave American Traffic Solutions “unfettered discretion” to issue tickets. In the ruling, Aventura police officer Jeanette Castro said she issued the ticket after watching footage from the cameras of Jimenez running a red light in an intersection where a no-turn-on-red sign was posted.
“Officer Castro testified that her decision to issue a citation to Jimenez was based on the same factors and criteria she uses when she issues a citation for a similar roadside violation,” appellate court judges Thomas Logue, Kevin Emas and Linda Ann Wells wrote.
Jimenez’s lawyers could not be reached.