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Archive for the tag “bargain”

Red Light Camera Dust Up in Des Moines

It’s been a few months since I have written about red light cameras, but a new issue has arisen in the great state of Iowa that is worth noting here in this blog.  As my readers know, I have been writing about red light cameras for some time now and vocally opposing them.  I have written articles on the subject (see here and here) and blogged on it (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here) many times.

According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribute, two women in Des Moines, Iowa are attempting to initiate a class action law suit against the City of Des Moines for its use of red light cameras.  Their claims appear to be constitutional as they claim that the cameras inhibit their freedom of travel and cannot be shown to have any positive impact on road safety.  The suit seeks to have the red light camera program shut down and the fines assessed due to the cameras refunded.

Notably, the Iowa Department of Transportation has recommended that ten of Iowa’s thirty-four red light cameras ought to be shut down as they have not had any impact on road safety.  Probably not coincidentally, the plaintiffs in the above-mentioned law suit received tickets on one of the ten to be shut down.

I will be following this case and I will post any updates to this blog.

Can a Parent Bargain Away Child Support?

When litigating a family matter, which generally involves the intersection of divorce, support and custody matters, practitioners and parties often try to find creative solutions to very sticky problems, many of which can have a significant impact on a person’s life. One way to attempt to bring a family matter to a resolution that some attorneys and parties consider, or even try, is to negotiate the payment of child support in consideration of gaining bargaining rights or negotiation room on some other issue, such as child custody or property distribution.

Agreements regarding the elimination of child support are generally found in matters where one parent is willing to give up all or almost all of his or her right to custody in exchange for being released from any obligation to pay support. For example, a common contract is for the custodial parent (most often the mother) to agree to not seek child support from the noncustodial parent in exchange for the noncustodial parent (most often the father) not seeking custody of the child.

Pennsylvania courts have, for the most part, deemed any agreement to bargain away a child’s right to support as against public policy and unenforceable; however there are a couple of exceptions. Pennsylvania courts have found, time and again, that a child has a right to receive child support and that a parent does not have a right to enter into a contract to avoid ensuring the support of that child. It should be noted, also, that the court has found (arguably through dicta) that, generally speaking, one cannot bargain away child support for a child resulting from a sexual relationship of any kind, including those involving so-called “one-night stands,” adultery or accidents (including when the woman deceives the man regarding her contraception use).

Despite the above, however, the courts have been consistent in ruling that men who donate sperm to allow for conceptions which are the result of anonymous and artificial insemination are, by definition, free from the obligation to pay child support. Similarly, and rather interestingly, the court recently ruled that men donating sperm for artificial insemination do not have to remain anonymous to the recipient of that sperm in order to be free from the obligation to pay support to the resulting child(ren). As long as the insemination process follows standard clinical procedures, the sperm donor will be free from the obligation to pay child support regardless of whether his identity is known to the mother.

Aside from artificial insemination, the only exception to the general ban on contracts that bargain away child support is an analysis into whether the child(ren) at issue are actually being supported without the potentially requested child support. The court has implied that the rule is not that one cannot bargain away child support but whether one can bargain away “adequate” child support. Of course, precisely what makes support adequate is decided on a case-by-case basis and depends on the economic realities for all of the parties involved. Therefore, a noncustodial parent can be released from the obligation to pay child support so long as the contract to do so was fair and reasonable, without fraud and coercion, and, most importantly, does not prejudice the welfare of the child(ren) at issue.

For example, say a woman has a child by one man out of wedlock but ultimately marries another man. Her husband is financially able to, and actually does, support his wife’s child from the other man. The woman and father in this scenario can enter into an agreement to release the father from the payment of child support so long as the child is adequately supported; therefore, the agreement will be enforceable against the establishment of a child-support order as long as this is the case. However, as soon as the husband discontinues the support of the child (say because of the divorce of the husband and mother) the agreement to release the father from a child-support obligation becomes unenforceable. The central issue of analysis is this: Is the child adequately supported by the custodial parent or some other source, absent the potential child-support order? If yes, then an agreement to bargain away child support is enforceable.

Cases to consider regarding the issues addressed in this article include: Miesen v. Frank, 361 Pa.Super. 204 (1987); Roberts v. Furst, 385 Pa.Super. 530 (1989); Kesler v. Weniger, 744 A.2d 794 (Pa.Super. 1999); and Ferguson v. McKiernan, 596 Pa. 78 (2007).

Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer Blog on September 27, 2013 and can be found here.

Red Light Cameras to Go Dark in NJ

As my readers know, I have been writing about red light cameras for some time now and vocally opposing them.  I have written articles on the subject (see here and here) and blogged on it (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here) many times.

The latest news is that the Red Light Camera program in New Jersey came to an end on December 16, 2014.  Now, technically speaking, the cameras will still be taking pictures, for the time being, but no fines or tickets will be issued.  The suspicion is that Red Light Camera advocates will use the data of the ticket-less-cameras (which they presume will reveal the rise in traffic scofflaws due to the elimination of a ticket threat) to justify requesting Trenton to revive the program in the near future.

At this point, however, the program will more or less cease and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie seems disinclined to renew it despite the support for it shown by local municipalities.  It is worth noting that the local municipalities’ support for it is really due to the revenues that flow from the program which, in turn I would argue, reveal why the program must come to an end.  Traffic tickets are designed to help deter traffic scofflaws, they are not designed to be a revenue source, and as soon as they become a revenue source, the abuses found in red light camera programs across the country rear their ugly heads.

To read more on this, you can find a good article on the New Jersey program’s future here.  You can also read other articles on the New Jersey program here and here as well.


Running Red Light Cameras: the Next Contest

This post is part of my ongoing series on my opposition to red light cameras.  I have written articles on the subject (see here and here) and blogged on it (here and here and here and here and here and here and here) many times.

It seems as the weeks and months go by, more and more stories and reports are presented demonstrating the significant and deep issues and concerns surrounding red light cameras.  The links above describe many of them but as recently as last week (11/5/14) The Today Show presented the latest development: a law suit in Florida.  You can see The Today Show segment on this matter here.

The segment above highlights a lot of the issues I have written on previously (e.g.: this is a money grab, tickets are sent in error, and so on), but evidently in Florida the tickets are reviewed by a for-profit private company before they are reviewed by law enforcement and the for-profit private company has authority to eliminate some photographs before passing them along to law enforcement.  The law suit in Florida claims that it is unlawful, if not unconstitutional, to have non-law enforcement functioning as de facto law enforcement.

Although there was little opposition when red light and other traffic cameras were initially installed, it seems cases like the one on The Today Show above (and the other ones I have written about linked above) are becoming increasingly common across the country as more and more motorists are finding themselves on the wrong end of a potentially unlawful and/or unconstitutional effort to separate them from their money via a traffic camera ticket.  Hopefully, as efforts like the ones described above gain steam, the era of the traffic camera will soon come to an end.

As an interesting and coincidental side note, as I was writing this blog post, I came across this article regarding someone’s experience contesting a red light camera ticket from Washington D.C.  It provides an interesting and insightful perspective from someone’s first hand experience.

More Reasons to Put the Brakes on Red Light Cameras

This post is part of my ongoing series on my opposition to red light cameras.  I have written articles on the subject (see here and here) and blogged on it (here and here and here and here and here and here) many times.

It seems, of late, every time red light cameras appear in the news, more is revealed that makes them a terrible idea and, true to form, two more reports have appeared in the last week or so which continue to indict red light cameras as bad public policy.

The first report is out of Chicago which you can see here.  As predicted here, reports now confirm that tickets can be issued if the time duration of yellow caution lights is shorter than the three seconds required by law by as little as .1 seconds.  You may not think .1 seconds is very significant, but, as it turns out, shaving off that little bit of time, allowing for only 2.9 seconds for a yellow caution light, led to 77,000 more red light tickets and an additional $8,000,000 more to government coffers.

The second report regards a judge presiding over a case dealing with red light cameras in Miami who has declared the red light program there illegal as it is currently enforced.  You can read more about that case here.  Under the law applicable in Miami, a private company is empowered to take and examine the red light camera photographs to discern whether a violation occurred.  If this private company believes a violation occurred it then issues the driver a citation.  The judge in this case ruled that only government entities are empowered to issue citations, not private companies.  As an aside, the fact that a private company is conducting so many government functions, to me, smacks of clear political patronage, which is yet another reason to oppose the red light programs.

Finally, as noted above, I have written on this subject many times.  I am starting to run out of puns and plays on words to title these posts.  So, if you have any suggestions for the titles of future pieces, leave a comment and let me know!

I Spoke at the 10/1/14 Rydal-Meadowbrook Civic Association Meeting

As my readers know, I am a vocal opponent of red light cameras.  I have written articles on the subject (see here and here) and blogged on it (here and here and here and here and here) many times.

As of Wednesday October 1, 2014, Abington Township in Montgomery County Pennsylvania has instituted red light cameras at three of its intersections for (at least) a one-year trial basis.  I am fairly certain that Abington is the first Township (as opposed to a city) to install red light cameras in Pennsylvania.  You can read more about this here.  Abington claims the cameras are “revenue neutral” but I am suspicious of this as I have heard reports that Abington can apply for grants from the revenue generated, which suggests Abington has an interest in increasing the number of tickets which will increase the grant money available for which it can apply.

As a result of Abington’s installing red light cameras, I was invited to speak at the October 1, 2014 meeting of the Rydal-Meadowbrook Civic Association.   At this meeting, I expressed my opposition to the red light camera program and had opportunity to present the various legal, political, and policy problems present in the program as described in my various articles and blogs linked above.  I think the Association was receptive to my presentation and, it is my hope, they will throw their weight behind ending the red light program when the one-year term is up on October 1, 2015.

I gratefully thank the Association for affording me the opportunity to speak and its meeting and express my opposition to the red-light camera program.

Traffic Cameras Abuses Come Into Focus on ABC News

As my readers know, I am a very vocal opponent of red light cameras in the Philadelphia area.  I have written articles on the subject (see here and here) and blogged on it (here and here and here and here) many times.

I am happy to say that ABC News is on the case against traffic cameras now; there was a feature on this subject on September 9, 2014 during ABC World News Tonight.  The ABC News story is contained in the video posted below.

The ABC News story deals mainly with speeding cameras, while I have only written on red light cameras.  Admittedly, I have not spent much time thinking about speeding cameras mainly because they have not yet been authorized in Pennsylvania to my knowledge, whereas the Philadelphia area has had a proliferation of red light cameras in recent years.

Per the news story below, evidently many of the same issues surrounding red light cameras also afflict speeding cameras: (1) the cameras are really a way for a municipality to line its coffers as opposed to advance traffic safety; (2) a lack of clarity on who is being photographed; (3) suspect camera accuracy; and, (4) putting average citizens on the defensive despite their not having broken the law.

Time and time and time again reports are issued which reveal that these cameras have been, on the whole, a terrible idea which have infringed on our basic American rights.  When will our legislators take appropriate action?  Likely only when the income stream from the cameras stops.

Always Contest a Ticket and Go to Traffic Court

From my own personal experience (evidently the police do not appreciate someone trying to get somewhere as fast as possible) and as an attorney representing traffic clients, I think it is safe to say that in practically every instance it is a good idea to contest a traffic ticket.

The first thing to note is that there is no harm at all to do so; the worst thing that could be visited upon someone who contests a traffic ticket is wasting some time down at traffic court and losing in court.  Pleading guilty is, obviously, an automatic loss so blowing a couple of hours to possibly win or plead the charges down does not seem like a huge risk to me.

The benefit to contesting tickets is obvious.  First, it delays the time in which you need to pay the fine if money is tight.  Second, there is a good possibility that the municipality will negotiate with you to plead down the ticket to some lesser charge which generally results in a lower fine and fewer (if any) points on your record.  Third, if you have a good defense and want to risk going to trial instead of plea bargaining, you could win and have the ticket dismissed altogether.

The benefit of winning in court is pretty clear as the ticket is dismissed and therefore no fine and/or penalty is assessed on your driving record accordingly.

The benefit of plea bargaining could have significant implications.  Keeping plea bargaining in mind is important because, if we are honest with ourselves, when the police pull us over it is generally because we were actually speeding or breaking some other traffic law, so winning at trial is unlikely.  So, plea bargaining gives you another way to try and lessen the impact of a traffic violation.  Obviously it is always good to have a less severe penalty and lower fine assessed, but the implications go further than that.  Plea bargaining which results in no or fewer points on your record could mean the difference between insurance rates increasing or staying the same, being on the brink of suspension or still having a buffer, or getting your license suspended or not.  So, needless to say, it is advisable to explore all of your options in court when you get a ticket as it may be the difference between driving and not driving.

Though not directly related with contesting tickets, whatever you do you must pay any fees and penalties assessed.  I can’t tell you how many people call me who discover, perhaps years later, that they are driving on a suspended license due to unpaid fines from years before.  The suspension term, once it catches up with you, would begin now and will cause you much heartache for something you could have easily dealt with before.

Finally, it is important to remember that with each year of clean driving your driving record will be reduced by three (3) points and if you can keep your record at zero points for a year the Commonwealth will reward you by treating you as if you had never previously received a ticket.  Therefore, contesting a ticket can play a significant role in maintaining a decent driving record.

Green Lighting Red Light Cameras Unconstitutional in Ohio!

For those who have been following my writing for any length of time will know that I am very much opposed to the Pennsylvania laws allowing red light cameras which currently litter Philadelphia intersections.

If you want to check it out, my other pieces on this subject include:

Well it looks like Ohio has a similar law regarding these red light cameras which was appealed all the way to its Supreme Court and the Ohio Supreme Court had the good sense to strike down the Ohio Red Light Camera law and unconstitutional.  I found a recent article on this subject here.

Hopefully someone here in Pennsylvania will recognize that the red light cameras are just not bad public policy, and rather poorly disguised money making enterprise for the state, but also clearly unconstitutional as they turn the American axiom “innocent until proven guilty” on its head.

Now that Ohio has cleared the way for the red light camera law to be struck down, hopefully some driver in Pennsylvania “caught” by these camera will have the courage and wherewithal to take the Pennsylvania law to our own Supreme Court for review!

More Reason to Oppose Red Light Cameras in Philadelphia

As most of my readers know, I am very much opposed to the red light camera program in Philadelphia.  I think it is terribly unconstitutional.

You can read more about my legal arguments regarding the unconstitutionality and other flaws with the red light cameras in these two articles:  Picture Imperfect: The Implications of Using Cameras to Monitor Drivers and Enforce Traffic Laws and Hidden Pictures: Constitutional Issues With the Red Light Program.

Now, as it turns out, the red light camera program has more than just its unconstitutionality to justify discontinuing it.  Apparently, the program causes more accidents.  A great article published in the Philadelphia Weekly now reveals the new accident trends as a result of the program.  The article is entitled “Red-Light District” and can be found here.

What more can be said?  The program fails under legal scrutiny and on the basis if practicality.  It truly needs to be discontinued.

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