Lawyer Challenges Red Light Camera Tickets in Spokane

Think about the last time you received a traffic ticket.  The officer writes down your name and address, vehicle information, and then he or she signs the ticket, right?  Well, when a traffic camera catches you driving through a red light, it works a little bit differently.  The officer reviews the photos at a computer terminal and “signs” the tickets electronically, simply by pushing a button.  The ticket is then printed out in another state, and it is mailed to you and the court.  Attorney John Clark of Spokane is challenging this process; he points to the law that requires an officer’s “signature” on each ticket.  See article.   Does a computer generated signature count?  How many of you have signed a check or signed a rental agreement with a computer generated signature?  Probably not many.  However, my guess is that the court will uphold the legality of these computer-generated signatures.  While we typically think of a signature as a person writing their own name, usually in cursive, a signature can take many forms.   According to Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th edition, “A signature may be written by hand, printed, stamped, typewritten, engraved, photographed or cut from one instrument and attached to another…And whatever mark, symbol, or device one may choose to employ as representative of himself is sufficient.”  Additionally, while it may not be widely known, the “electronic signature” is actually becoming more and more common.  It is not like the police invented this practice.   Last year, when I borrowed money for my older son’s college tuition, I “signed” the master promissory note online with an electronic signature.  I guess we will see how the court rules on this whole thing.

Speaking of red light tickets in Spokane, I saw last week a photoshield on a license plate.  A photoshield is a clear plastic cover a person buys to put over their license plate to prevent a red light camera from reading their plate.  The cover is transparent but creates glare for the traffic camera.  The same glare effect can also be created by a spray-on can.  These devices have already been outlawed in some states, such as Pennsylvania, but are still apparently legal here in Spokane.  We will see how long that lasts.   Below is a video from Tech TV on the subject.   As an attorney, I would advise people to avoid these products.  Let’s say you use this product on your car, and you do actually injure someone in a traffic accident.  How is it going to look to a judge or jury when the state trooper testifies about the covering to your license plate?  There is a special term we use in the law to describe a plan, formed in advance, to break the law.  The term is “premeditation.”

For previous stories on the intersection of technology and the law, see Drones and Privacy, C.S.I. High, Taser Cams, Robbery on Video, & Twitter and Public Meetings.

2 Responses to “Lawyer Challenges Red Light Camera Tickets in Spokane”

  • Maura:

    How are license plate glare covers different then radar detectors? I would oppose the covers if all the redlight money wasn’t going to the private companies.

  • Steve Graham:

    I can sympathize more with people who want to drive 75 mph on open highways, than i can with people who want to run redlights. Also, i agree money shouldn;t be going to the private companies, but that is really no different then with radar. A lot of money goes to the private companies for equipment purchases and maintenance.

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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking:
Law Office of Steve Graham
1312 North Monroe Street, #140
Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 252-9167
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