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Archive for the tag “plead”

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.

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!

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.

Alternative Pleading in a Divorce Action? Not so Fast!

When filing a divorce complaint, it appears that a typical lawyer’s standard pleading philosophy is to make as many claims as theoretically possible, relying on the court or opposing counsel to take the appropriate action to strike the weakest claims; a strategy often referred to as “throw as much mud against the wall and see what sticks!” The Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure (Pa. R.C.P. 1020 and 1021) appear to support such a strategy by specifically allowing alternative pleading as well as pleading contradictory claims. In fact, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has explicitly ruled that “[t]hese rules reflect the general principle that plaintiffs should not be forced to elect a particular theory in pursuing a claim.” Republic Intermodal Corporation and Sullivan Lines, Inc. v. Doris Leasing Company, Inc. and Union National Bank of Pittsburgh, 473 Pa. 614 (1976).

When filing a divorce complaint, it appears that most attorneys maintain the aforesaid strategy by simultaneously making claims for a divorce under Sections 3301(c), 3301(d), and sometimes 3301(a) of the Pennsylvania Divorce Code, as standard practice. For the benefit of those who are not familiar with the Divorce Code, Section 3301(c) permits a no-fault divorce after the filing of Affidavits of Consent by both parties and ninety (90) days have elapsed after the filing of a divorce action. Section 3301(d) allows for a no-fault divorce to be unilaterally secured by one spouse after two (2) years of separation. 3301(a) is a traditional and old-fashioned fault-based divorce claim.

Although the Rules of Civil Procedure appear to allow for alternative pleading, even in the context of divorce, there are a growing number of cases that appear to proscribe alternative pleading in divorce in certain circumstances. One question which has arisen is: can a plaintiff in a divorce action, filing under Section 3301(c) and 3301(d) and/or 3301(a) refuse to file an Affidavit of Consent to consent to his own divorce action? It would appear, under the above Rules and case law that a plaintiff in a divorce action has the choice of proceeding under whichever claim he wishes. However the courts have increasingly limited this right under certain circumstances.

Pennsylvania courts, in an increasing number of cases, have ruled that refusing to allow a plaintiff’s divorce action to progress through the quickest route possible unfairly and inappropriately prejudices the opposing party. Consequently, if a plaintiff files under Section 3301(c), the courts have increasingly taken the position that one cannot refuse to file an Affidavit of Consent under Section 3301(c). The prejudice to the opposing party is fairly obvious: first, the filing of a divorce action is often accompanied by the filing for (and granting of) alimony pendente lite. Alimony pendente lite is support for the opposing party which can only be received during the pendency of a divorce action. Therefore, taking action to prolong one’s own divorce action only serves to extend the time the opposing party has to pay alimony pendente lite without recourse to stop it. Second, it prolongs the time the parties are married, which can have any number of implications. The courts have taken the position that the refusal to consent to one’s own divorce action is an abuse of the divorce process and one cannot receive the benefit of the divorce action without taking reasonable steps to expeditiously conclude it.

Although the courts have ruled that one cannot refuse to file an Affidavit of Consent, can a court force a party to execute the affidavit? Thus far, the courts have been reluctant to force the execution of an Affidavit of Consent. The cases deciding this issue to date have established the penalty for refusing to consent to one’s own divorce to be the dismissal of the divorce action in toto, which, by definition, simultaneously dismisses the alimony pendente lite. It does not yet appear that sanctions against the party refusing to consent to his own divorce action are among the penalties to be assessed, but the cases do not proscribe such a result.

A subset of cases involving a party refusing to consent to his divorce is growing in the circumstance where the party is receiving spousal support rather than alimony pendente lite. The crucial distinction between spousal support and alimony pendente lite is that spousal support is not dependant upon the existence of a divorce action. Spousal support can be successfully requested and received by a spouse absent a divorce action, but is definitively concluded when the parties are divorced. Therefore, dismissing the divorce action as a penalty for refusing to file an Affidavit of Consent, does not resolve the prejudice of having an artificially prolonged spousal support order in place against the opposing party. In this instance, judicial economy arguments are raised in the context of the individual factual circumstances of each case. The specific issue is whether dismissing the divorce claim has any positive effect on the spousal support claim. If not, then dismissing the claim may not be a viable alternative to correct the prejudice against the opposing party. It is in this situation that sanctions are most likely to be assessed to remedy the clearly unjust situation.

In the final analysis, when filing for a divorce, one has to be aware of the implications of the existence of an order for spousal support or alimony pendente lite on the speed in which one would like divorce action to proceed. Relatedly, if one files under Section 3301(c) of the Divorce Code, one must be prepared to file an Affidavit of Consent, otherwise one should only proceed under the other sections of the Divorce Code. Relevant cases on this topic are: Skelly v. Skelly, 36 Pa.D.C.4th 189 (1997); Norris v. Norris, 10 Pa. D.&C.4th 207 (1991); Mellot v. Mellot, 1 Pa.D.&C.4th 618 (1988); Burk v. Burk, 38 Pa.D.&C.3d 558 (1986); Way v. Way, 35 Pa.D.&C.3d 653 (1985); Rueckert v. Rueckert, 20 Pa.D.&C.3d 191 (1981).

Originally published in Upon Further Review on November 10, 2009 and can be viewed here or on my website here.  This article was also reprinted on November 10, 2009 in Upon Further Review.  Furthermore, it was also reprinted in Volume 32 Issue No. 4 (December 2010) of Pennsylvania Family Lawyer.

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