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Farragut court upholds camera citations

Five area residents appealed red light camera violations at a municipal court date Wednesday, Feb. 17, all for right turns on red.

More than 20 people requested hearings, but of the 10 to 15 who showed up for court, most paid their $50 fine after reviewing video of their violations.

But video was just what one man argued against.

H. Lee Martin said the Redflex video should not be admissible in court, citing a disclaimer on the Redflex Web site stating just that.

“The system is improperly calibrated and I can prove it,” he said, adding compression and decompression of digital video distorted its visual clarity.

“I’m not a lawyer, but they wouldn’t say that on the Web site if they didn’t have to,” he added.

Martin asked former Knox County Sherriff’s Office Capt. Ben Harkins, Town automated enforcement manager, to watch the video of his alleged violation and describe the color of his vehicle.

Harkins couldn’t nail down a color, describing the vehicle as “light colored.”

“But I can tell it didn’t stop, and I have still photos of a tag registered to you,” Harkins said.

Martin said that brought up another issue: selective enforcement.

If he had illegal tags that could not be traced, he would not be standing in court, Martin said.

Judge Jerry Martin, no relation to Lee Martin, asked Lee if he had any proof the video clarity disrupted motion detection, or if he had evidence his vehicle did stop.

“I wasn’t driving. I have no idea,” Lee Martin said.

“The folks with Farragut better wake up … this is strictly for tax purposes,” he added, saying if Farragut officials were concerned for safety, “they would not put calming strips down Smith Road causing scores of accidents.”

Judge Martin quoted from Tennessee State Law saying the registered owner of a vehicle was financially responsible for automated enforcement violations, even if he was not driving.

If such an owner wanted to assign blame to another driver, he would have to sign an affidavit before his court hearing.

Martin added that, “in a modern world, we are often videoed and photoed,” saying many businesses use video cameras as deterrents to crime.

“Having cameras to protect people is, I think most people would agree, a good thing,” Judge Martin said.

Of the video quality, Judge Martin agreed it was not optimal: the violation occurred in mid-afternoon and “there was a lot of glare.”

“The question is not if the video is of perfect quality, but if the vehicle commits a violation,” Judge Martin said.

The video clearly shows the car slowing, but not fully stopping, as it crossed the cross bar into the intersection, he added.

Judge Martin ruled that Lee Martin was guilty of a violation and subject to paying the $50 citation plus $55 in court costs.

Danny Hodge appeared before the court, but said he’d prepared a defense for the wrong intersection: he thought he’d run the red light at Concord Road and Kingston Pike, but the intersection was actually Kingston Pike and Campbell Station Road.

“What’s the time limit for stopping at a red light?” Hodge asked Harkins.

Harkins said there was no time limit: a stop was “when your wheels have stopped rolling.”

Hodge told the court there were intersections in Farragut where it was unsafe to stop behind the white line and then turn, largely because line-of-sight often was obstructed.

Martin said it might be necessary to stop twice: once behind the white line, then again when a drive pulled up enough to see.

And if a vehicle does stop before the cross bar, “the Redflex camera would not even create an incident. I’d never see it,” Harkins said.

Hodge finally asked Harkins if he thought citation revenues should be donated to charity; Harkins said it was not his decision to make.

Laurie Gilbert told Judge Martin she was driving a stick shift pick-up truck, and that she stopped but the vehicle continued to roll.

“It’s going to roll on a clutch. But it shows my brake lights,” Gilbert said.

“Unfortunately, the law says you must come to a full and complete stop. It doesn’t say almost,” Martin said.

Gilbert also had to pay the $50 fine and $55 in court costs.

Mendy Randall told Harkins she crossed the stop bar after the light had been red less than half a second, according to her citation.

Harkins said the light had been yellow at least four seconds at her approach, and she’d had plenty of time to slow and stop.

“I don’t think I deserve this ticket: it was less than half a second,” Randall said.

Judge Martin fined Randall the $55 court costs but lowered her citation fine to $25.

Finally Farhad Bayani told the court he’d received three citations, all delivered to his house on one day. Bayani said he was out of town during the warning period, and had no idea the red light cameras had been installed.

“It’s not fair all [three] come and surprise one person like this,” Bayani said.

Martin fined Bayani $50 for all three citations, but only levied $55 in court costs.


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