Arizona: Freeway Speed Cameras Jail Innocent Motorists
Drivers are having their licenses suspended without their knowledge because of photo ticketing in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Scottsdale courthouseThe proliferation of speed cameras in Arizona, particularly Scottsdale's Loop 101 freeway camera program, has caused a significant number of motorists to be arrested for driving on a suspended license, even though these drivers had no idea they had ever done anything wrong in the first place.
Scottsdale resident Sherri Zanoff had her license suspended in 2005. Under Arizona law, before any suspension for failure to pay a photo ticket can take effect, motorists must be served with that ticket by a human being. Process servers earn between $7 and $9 for each ticket delivered -- and zero for any ticket returned as undelivered. As a result, the servers sometimes bend the rules.
Scottsdale claimed Zanoff had been served on March 10, 2005, but Zanoff had proof that she was on a plane to Costa Rica that day. Despite the evidence, a judge suspended her license. Zanoff spent $1000 in legal fees to overturn the Scottsdale court decisions on appeal. The ordeal cost her even more in increased insurance premiums and inconvenience.
"I had to get rides from the court to the MVD, to an attorney, back to court, all without a driver's license," Zanoff told the Chandler Times.
Brandi Mooney, 33, was thrown in a Phoenix jail after police stopped her on September 26 for driving on a suspended license. Mooney had renewed the registration on her Ford Explorer on September 6 and had no reason to believe or know that her license had been suspended on that very same day. She had never received any ticket.
A pair of municipal judges -- Hebert Pierpan and Ray Taylor -- are responsible for making rulings on licenses suspended because of photo tickets. They also are responsible for challenges to the 140,000 photo tickets issued each year in Scottsdale.
Former photo radar supporter Lydia D'Agosto, 60, had her license suspended for an offense she did not commit. The photograph showed a dark-haired 35-year-old behind the wheel of a Mini Cooper -- D'Agosto drives a van and looks nothing like the person in the photograph. Nonetheless, Judge Pierpan found her guilty and D'Agosto spent more than $1000 to have the Maricopa County Superior Court overturn her conviction.
Transcript of a Scottsdale court hearing with
Chandler resident John Wilantowicz:
Wilantowicz: I did respond to it. On the 17th I responded.
Judge Pierpan: You are in a default status... You have one option, and you probably won't like that option, that is to pay the fine.
Wilantowicz: But I'm not guilty. I've complied. I've taken the steps to... I sent the letter, stating who the driver was...
Judge Pierpan: Well that's not a matter before the court... The only option is to pay the fine.
Wilantowicz: But there's gotta be something, if I'm not guilty.
Judge Pierpan: Guilt isn't a matter before the court. It's a matter of default.
Wilantowicz: If I pay the default judgment, would that mean I'm guilty of speeding?
Judge Pierpan: Well, it would go down that way, yes, sir.
Source: Guilty (Chandler Times (AZ), 1/21/2007)