Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeals has held that the City of Hollywood could not delegate its police power to a third party vendor to issue traffic citations for red light camera violations. City of Hollywood v. Arem, 2014 WL 5149159.
American Traffic Solutions, Inc. ("ATS") provides the City with the cameras and a computerized system to review recorded images of potential red light violations. ATS was empowered to make the first pass, however; if it did not think there was sufficient evidence of a violation, it would not send the image. Once an image was sent, the City's Traffic Infraction Enforcement Officer merely had to click "Accept." From there, ATS handled everything. It issued a Notice of Violation. If there was no response, ATS would then issue a Uniform Traffic Citation to the violator, complete with a computer-generated signature of the officer and the officer's badge number. After clicking "Accept" to initiate the original Notice of Violation, the officer had no further contact, would never see the actual citation, and was not involved in its issuance.
In Florida, only law enforcement officers and traffic enforcement officers have the authority to issue citations and determine who gets prosecuted for a red light violation. Here it was the vendor who was deciding which images the traffic officer reviewed and the vendor who was issuing the citations. Therefore, the City improperly delegated its police powers by contractually outsourcing them to a third party. As a result, the citation was dismissed.
Red light cameras have generated a lot of heated controversy. Numerous contracts may now have to be re-examined, depending on the services provided. ATS alone has contracts with 63 cities statewide. Even more important, if there was no authority to issue the citations in the first place, that may render all of those red light tickets illegal and require refunding all the money they generated. No doubt, we have not heard the last word on this issue.