A class-action lawsuit filed Thursday claims Orlando's red-light cameras are unconstitutional and should no longer be used to issue tickets.
The city placed the cameras at seven intersections on Sept. 1, saying they would save lives. But the suit alleges the real reason for the program is to generate revenue.
"It's a money-maker," said Richard Schuler, a partner with the West Palm Beach law firm that filed the suit against Orlando and several other governments.
City Attorney Mayanne Downs said Orlando reviewed the legalities before adopting the camera ordinance in December 2007 and is confident it will prevail in court.
"We have worked hard to give every red-light runner a fair hearing," Downs said. "We are very proud of the lives we have saved in the city of Orlando with this red-light program. It's the right thing to do, and we're going to keep doing it."
The only named plaintiff, Nabeel Ansari, 27, had more practical reasons for filing the suit. He received three tickets at Vineland and Conroy roads between Nov. 29 and June 15, racking up a $500 tab. The fine for a first or second offense is $125; after that, it spikes to $250 for the third or subsequent offense in three years.
Like plaintiffs in similar suits against other governments, Ansari was recruited through a newspaper advertisement. "Big Brother," Ansari said. "What are you gonna do?"
Though Ansari admitted running the light, which he said is long, the lawsuit alleges that the cameras are unfair partly because they don't determine who is driving. The plaintiffs "were presumed guilty by reason of their ownership of the vehicle" and had to prove their innocence, contrary to legal precedent, the suit states.
"You shouldn't have to prove anything," Schuler said. "They should have to prove the case against you."
Further, the law requires a law-enforcement officer to see an infraction and testify in court if a driver challenges a ticket, he said.
Attorneys hope a judge will certify the suit as a class action. If so, hundreds or more people could be included as plaintiffs.
The firm has filed or plan to file similar suits against about 20 counties and municipalities. Among them are Aventura, Miami Gardens, Juno Beach, Lakeland, Pembroke Pines and Collier County, Schuler said.
The suit also names American Traffic Solutions and ATS American Traffic Solutions, both of Scottsdale, Ariz. The suit says the companies design, manufacture and market the monitoring devices.