Fighting red light tickets could soon cost more

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SARASOTA--More and more often, there's an eye in the sky watching you pass through intersections.

You may not even know its there; that is, until a ticket shows up in your mail box. And if a proposed law comes to pass, fighting that ticket issued by a red light camera could end up costing a whole lot more.

"I definitely see challenges, there have been challenges with these red light cameras since the day they've been instituted," said attorney David Haenel.

As it stands now, tickets issued by red light cameras cost $158.

Under the new proposal, that amount would stay the same, but local jurisdictions could increase the cost of the court fees associated with appealing the ticket up to $250. That would bring the grand total to more than $400.

If the change goes into effect, jurisdictions would also have to create an independent review board to hear the appeals. Haenel says that could lead to a conflict of interest.

"The problem that you have with that is the agency, the city of Sarasota, for example, is actually the one who is issuing the ticket and is also the one that's going to hire somebody to listen to your appeal," said Haenel, "obviously there's a lot of money in the actual issuing of the citation and actually through the appeals process, and I'm not comfortable with that."

He also says the fear of having to pay that much in court fees could persuade drivers to just hit the brakes when it comes to challenging the ticket.

"I think in actuality it's probably a scare tactic," said Haenel, "it's basically set up in such a way that you initially hear the maximum penalty, you're going to be shying away from actually challenging your ticket because you think wow the tickets $158, if I lose I could be paying up to 400 dollars."