Lawsuit could void photo-radar tickets

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.05.2008

PHOENIX Thousands of Arizona motorists who got photo-radar tickets might be able to ignore them if a new lawsuit is successful.
And those who already paid may be able to get their money back.
Legal papers filed in Maricopa County Superior Court contend the citations issued by Redflex Traffic Systems before at least the first week in August are illegal. That is because the company, which operates speed enforcement cameras for the Department of Public Safety and several Arizona communities, was operating radar guns that had not been cleared for use in this country.
Attorney Thomas Moring said that, at the very least, it entitles his client, James Tavernetti, to refuse to pay the photo-radar ticket issued by the town of Paradise Valley in June. A mobile photo-radar unit operated for the town by Redflex clocked him as speeding. But Moring also is asking Judge Eddward Ballinger to block any other state or local government that has issued such citations from enforcing them. That includes Paradise Valley and the Department of Public Safety and could affect Chandler, Prescott Valley, Tempe and Pinal County.
And Moring said the case could ultimately be expanded to cover those who paid the tickets without protest because they didn't know Redflex was operating the radar guns without legal authority.
Central to the dispute is the admission last month by Karen Finley, president of the Scottsdale-based company, that the particular type of radar units Redflex imported into the United States had not been approved by the Federal Communications Commission. That approval is required of any device that transmits radio waves.
DPS, on hearing the admission, took its two photo-radar vans off the road until FCC certification came through. But Lt. James Warriner acknowledged the two vans already had issued about 4,800 citations since first being deployed last November.
Moring said the same type of unit was being used by Paradise Valley also illegally.
Moring charges Redflex with negligence, saying the company knew or should have known that it was operating the radar units illegally.
Jay Heiler, a spokesman for Redflex, said he expects the lawsuit to be thrown out.
"The radars in question have always been approved and they've always been accurate," he said.