In 2001, San Diego attorney Arthur Tait defended several motorists who felt they'd been unfairly nabbed by red-light cameras. He won, big time. A judge tossed out 300 tickets, saying the systems as configured were unreliable and so the results were inadmissible. San Diego shut down its cameras while it fixed the problems. Tait has now represented motorists in about 1,000 red-light camera cases and won about 94% of those cases, he estimates.
"To this day we're still finding so much wrong with the accuracy of these programs," he says. "As long as they're being run unfairly, we're going to be able to keep winning for our clients."
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A few critics of the cameras have also worried about privacy and due process. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has urged a halt to the use of the cameras until due process and fairness issues can be settled. For example, efforts to reinstate red- light cameras in 2005 in Virginia Beach, Va., and in Northern Virginia died after the state House decided to let legislation expire that permitted them. Some legislators had been troubled by the fact that owners of the car could be ticketed even though a picture is only taken of a vehicle and its license plate, not the driver. "The burden of proof usually then falls on the owner to prove he or she was not driving at the time," says the ACLU. "This is a violation of the bedrock American principle that the accused be considered innocent until proven guilty."