November 22, 2006
Kubosh's day in court

Remember Michael Kubosh and his scheme to challenge the legality of red light cameras? Well, he's now had his day in court, and he's one step closer to taking his shot at the red light camera law.

Represented by his brother, lawyer Paul Kubosh, Michael Kubosh asked a city administrative judge to dismiss the citation he received for running the red light at Milam and Elgin. The judge declined.

Paul Kubosh said he will appeal the case to another municipal court Dec. 6 to exhaust the city appeals process. He expects that ruling also will go against him, after which he plans to file suit in state district court challenging the red-light camera ordinance.

The basis of the challenge is that red-light violations caught by camera are civil violations. The Kubosh brothers argue that the city can't make red-light running a civil offense when state law makes it a misdemeanor criminal offense.

City Attorney Arturo Michel has said he does not expect the argument to hold up.

Michael Kubosh announced in advance that he would run a red light Sept. 17 to challenge the law. A police officer was waiting and issued a criminal ticket, thwarting Kubosh's effort to get a civil citation he could challenge.

He ran the light again three days later, was caught on camera and received a civil citation.

Well, give him full marks for persistence, I guess. The claim that municipalities can issue civil fines for red light violations that have been caught on camera has not been tested in court, so at least we ought to get an answer to the question. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me the fact that since there's been legislation proposed to ban cities from doing this, one might reasonably conclude that there's nothing currently stopping them otherwise. We'll see what the judge says.

Meanwhile, KTRK raises a question that I've asked before:

[T]he city defends its use of the red light cameras, citing public safety as the number one priority. So, are they reducing the number of accidents caused by red light runners? Police admit answering yes might be a little premature.

"It's a little too early to be able to determine what the cause and effect results are, with the accident statistics," said HPD Sgt. Michael Muench.

Well, when will you be able to tell us? For the public safety concerns to be deemed valid (by me, anyway), there needs to be evidence that the cameras actually contribute to public safety. Without that evidence, the negatives of the cameras clearly outweigh the positives - frankly, without evidence to show that they reduce accidents and injuries, I'm not sure what the positives are. I can accept for now that we haven't had enough time to evaluate the data, but I want to know when we think we will have had enough time. Let's put the cards on the table and make an informed decision from there. Thanks to Houstonist for the link.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 22, 2006 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

Kuff, you write: "I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me the fact that since there's been legislation proposed to ban cities from doing this, one might reasonably conclude that there's nothing currently stopping them otherwise"

Actually it's a bit more complicated. RLCs were for sure illegal until 2003, when a legislator added innocuous language the House didn't understand (they'd already voted against RLC's), and snuck it into the law as an amendment. (That was Linda Harper Brown.) The language itself is vague. When the House in 2005 came back and voted to ban them again, scolding Harper Brown on the floor for deceiving them, Rodney Ellis threatened to fillibuster if it got to the Senate floor in the session's closing days. Thanks a lot! :-(

So it's never been tested and Texas is the only state where running red lights is both a criminal AND a civil violation - in other words it really is shaky, tenuous and uncharted law, and I glad someone's going to court over it. I hope his lawyers do a good job.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast on November 22, 2006 10:55 AM

As for your question regarding when has it been long enough to assess the public safety value, I suggest you go look at the statistics that Mayor White touted when he proclaimed Safe Clear a public safety success. It would seem that the time periods for gauging the success of two separate city programs aimed at decreasing roadway accidents would be the same.

Posted by: RedScare on November 22, 2006 3:35 PM

Mr. Kubosh, I agree with your position on the red light cameras. I recently received a ticket in the mail for a car that I traded in the first week in Oct. 06'. I had to find all the information from the sell of the car and then meet with a judge to prove it was not me nor my wife driving the car. I spent 2 hours of my time waiting for the judge to call me into his office. The problem I had was, I was being considered guilty until I proved my sefl innocent. What ever happened to the belief that I am innocent until proven guilty. I guess that doesn't fall true in Houston Texas. I wish I could state my view on those cameras that are mainly designed to increase revenue for Housto.

Posted by: Joe Zuniga III on February 20, 2007 5:25 PM