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09-18-06, 05:15 PM #1
Critic of city red-light cameras intentionally runs light to challenge it............
A critic of the city's red-light camera system today intentionally ran a downtown red light to get caught on camera so he could challenge the new system in court - only to be ticketed by a Houston police officer instead.
That means he will face a criminal misdemeanor with a maximum $200 fine instead of the civil citation and $75 fine that's issued to violators caught on tape.
As he announced publicly last week he would do, Harris County bondsman Michael Kubosh carefully ran the red light at the intersection of Milam and Elgin, one of 10 locations around the city where cameras began snapping photos of violators at the beginning of this month. He and his brother Paul Kubosh, a traffic lawyer who will represent him, have been fighting the legality of red-light cameras for years, saying it's not an effective way to enhance public safety.
But a police officer who staked him out at the scene - and even asked for his license beforehand - quickly pulled him over for the violation. A ticket issued by an officer overrides any camera-based citation.
"They are afraid of the challenge we're going to give them in court,'' Michael Kubosh said.
He now plans to run a red light at another time - just more discreetly.
Once Michael Kubosh, who is running for District 7 state senator, has standing as a red-light runner caught by a camera, he plans to challenge the ordinance as contrary to state law. The city cannot make running a red light a civil offense, his brother says, when under state law it's a criminal offense.
"It's not as sexy as privacy,'' Paul Kubosh said, "but the state constitution says you can't pass any (city) laws in conflict with state laws.''
City Attorney Arturo Michel said he does not expect Kubosh's argument to hold up in court.
"We clearly have the authority under the state statute to regulate it in a different manner,'' he said.
State lawmakers amended the traffic code in 2003 after a battle in the Legislature over red-light cameras. Though not approving or prohibiting red-light cameras specifically, they did permit the civil enforcement of vehicle safety standards under state law or municipal ordinance.
More recently, Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled municipalities can install red-light cameras on state roads.
To avoid causing a crash, the pair planned the violation at 7 a.m., when downtown streets are nearly empty. Family members stood on either side of the intersection and waved large white flags when cars approached. When it was clear, Michael Kubosh ran the light. Soon after a police car flashed its lights behind him.
The officer who gave him the ticket, John Nickell, declined to comment, saying only that he was following orders.
Kubosh said police may have turned off the camera system during the incident, but HPD spokesman Sgt. Nate McDuell said that was untrue. It wasn't necessary, he said, because the officer's ticket takes precedence over the camera.
"It's an unfortunate form of protest and we're fortunate that no one was injured or killed as a result of this illegal behavior,'' he said.
So far, 10 of the city's most dangerous intersections have been outfitted with the technology, and the city plans to install it at 40 more sites. Those locations have not yet been identified, but officials say they are being chosen based on crash data and will enhance public safety.
Critics like the Kubosh brothers say the system instead is designed to raise revenue for the city and the camera vendor, Phoenix-based American Traffic Solutions Inc.
Now that Michael Kubosh has been issued a ticket, he could be the one adding cash to the city's coffers.
"The proper way to do this is to have a police officer (catch the violator), as they have here this morning,'' he said. "I'm going to have to face the ticket that everyone should have.''
09-18-06, 05:22 PM #2BEEN THERE BUT NOT EVERYWHERE
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those cameras are all over the place... got cought a few times myself.
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