Thursday, May 27, 2010

My ideas for challenging the Piney Flats / Bluff City speed camera tickets

While I am sure you can find plenty of information regarding challenging these tickets, most of them are loser arguments. Of course, I am not your lawyer so you should consider this approach with your lawyer. That said, the Piney Flats/Bluff City ordinance requires a payment of $50 and a payment of $40 for court costs. It charges this amount whether you go to court or not. Why should you pay court costs when you do not go to court? One might argue that this additional charge makes the entire ordinance unconstitutional under the Tennessee Constitution.

Article VI, Section 15 of the Tennessee Constitution provides as follows:

No fine shall be laid on any citizen of this state that shall exceed fifty dollars, unless it shall be assessed by a jury of his peers.

Calling the $40 a "court cost" is ridiculous when no court is involved in the matter unless the person challenges the ticket. It is simply calling a fine by another name in order to avoid calling it a fine and in order to avoid a jury trial (which these crooks desperately want to avoid because they know what "jury nullification" is). I would argue that this mandatory court cost is nothing more than a fine and the citizen is left with no recourse to challenge it, other than by coming to court and thereby being subject to the court cost. As such, the ordinance is unconstitutional. Your honor "what if they made the court costs $500 or $1,000? What is to stop them from doing that?" I would argue that, the ordinance is unconstitutional on its face because the fine is essentially $90 whether you go to court or not and therefore a jury trial is warranted and the ordinance makes no provision for a jury trial. [Update: I believe that Bluff City changed its ordinance in December 2010 to only assess this fee if you actually go to court, so this issue may now be irrelevant. I have not checked the ordinance to confirm this.]

Further, the legislature knows this is an issue. The House just approved legislation that does the following:

Limit[s] fines to $50 per violation and declaring that add-on late payment fees also cannot exceed $50 per ticket, starting July 1, 2011. The provision also says that court costs cannot be assessed unless the violator actually goes to court. McCord said some cities are now adding court costs to the basic $50 ticket when it is first mailed to the violator.

There are plenty of other good arguments out there and to my knowledge, the Bluff City ordinance has not been challenged yet. Just because some cities are adding these costs do not mean they are constitutionally permissible (even without final approval of the legislation above).

I might also want to show up with some of these photoshopped pictures of Barack Obama and others. Maybe King Barry and Sarah Palin would do the trick. I might inquire as to whether these photos were real. After all, photographs never lie, right? [Updated to add: Who knew that Elvis met Darth Vader?] A really talented person might endeavor to provide photoshopped photos of various well-known city officials in Bluff City. I wouldn't recommend photoshopping the judge; the point would be well-made, but you might end up in jail if the judge were, say, making love to a goat or something. It might be interesting to provide a photoshopped version of the the photo of your own car (from the ticket cam's website) with one of the official's tag numbers photoshopped onto it. A good photoshopper would likely be able to do this with minimal effort. "Is this my car or is it councilman _____'s car? This photo has his tag number on it." Since you cannot confront your accuser, how are "we the people" supposed to know if these things are even real? Are we supposed to just trust the government's prosecutors? Last I checked, the government is supposed to prove its case. Photos are so easily faked that they are flimsy evidence at best.

Ask the government agent how the cameras work. Ask the officer how the cameras work. Ask when they were last calibrated. Who trained them to operate the cameras? How much training did they have? Ask plenty of questions to show they are idiots and that they are just trusting a piece of machinery and software.

Again, these are just some ideas. If you really want to fight "based on the principle," pay a few bucks and hire a lawyer. You're probably going to lose anyway, but you never know.

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