2012 - 2013

Year In Review, Looking Forward

Red Light Cameras

The Red Light Camera debacle continues in the state of Florida. Spurned on by greed (not "safety") the law is full of problems. Unfortunately, in our society it is money that sways justice rather than justice itself. The noble cause of freedom has long ago disappeared from the minds of our elected "representatives" (joke). The Red Light Camera contracts that were signed before any state law was enacted were based on the idea that a single municipality could derive revenue by creating it's own traffic laws within it's boundaries. The Fifth District Court of Appeal rightfully struck down this tack by the cities as being in violation of the "uniform" traffic law requirement. This reasoned decision was not enough for the cities that had jumped the gun with the implementation of the red light cameras. They have now asked the Florida Supreme Court to review the Fifth District Court's decision.

The pressure is on judges and hearing officers to "make the red light cameras work." There has to be some "higher" voice speaking down to them to try and get these citations to pay. That can be the only explanation for the contrasting orders that have come out of the courts. Note: higher voice does not mean God but political weight. See the two decisions from same judge below:

(to be posted at later date but soon - check back)

Problems With State Use of "Diversion" Programs

I have noticed a problem with the use of "diversion" programs used by the Office of the State Attorney. A diversion program allows someone with no criminal history or a very minor history that has been charged with a new criminal offense (minor and non-violent) to participate in a program after which their criminal case is dropped. This is a great program for people who have actually committed a crime without police misconduct. However, if there is police misconduct such as an illegal stop (we still have the right to not be seized and searched, just FYI - see Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution) and a person accepts diversion there is not opportunity to punish law enforcement for their violation of our rights. When I say "punish" I refer to the legal sense of punishment in the form of suppression of evidence. Suppression was determined to be a way of trying to correct the bad behavior of the state officers when it came to violation of Constitutional Rights. The idea supposes that suppression would teach the state officers not to repeat the violation. With the Office of the State Attorney offering diversion more and more to first time offenders the opportunity to address state violations of our rights becomes less and less.

Racing On Highway Statute still Vague

The Racing on Highway statute has gone through several iterations since it was created in 2002. When it came to life back then we had police officers charging people with racing for such things as speeding, driving side by side, loud mufflers, spinning tires, and just because. It was a new law that the police could charge people with but unfortunately no one taught the police the nuances of the law. Soon thereafter, the original law was declared unconstitutional in one district. Later a different district found it to be A-OK. Just before the Florida Supreme Court decided who was right the legislature made some changes to the statute and and the review became moot. However, the changes did not clarify anything. It still says that "preventing another vehicle from passing" is racing when it is clearly a simple traffic infraction. The added language requiring that there be a "challenge" and an "acceptance" of that challenge has done little to educate law enforcement on when and when not to charge somebody with racing.

Final Thoughts...for now

If we don't challenge the authorities at the most mundane levels they will think it is okay to impose their will on us at all levels. Society requires laws to live by and we all accept those laws. At the same time we also know that power corrupts. If you look at our representatives at the local level we see the same people being elected or appointed to positions of power. A former commissioner becomes a member of the Tollway Authority, a son of a former Senator gets appointed to an open commission seat, a brother of a former Senator's law firm wins a city contract. These things happen. The only thing I know to do is challenge them anytime there is a violation of the law or our rights. This is not a new concept. It is how our government has been devised. The power of the people has an opportunity to be heard and to influence their representatives. Unfortunately, our representatives have become a class of select people not necessarily based on intelligence or civic duty and the people exercise their right to be heard less and less. Maybe someone will stand up and become the leader of reform. Maybe things will change for the better - and that is only a slight change, a nudge, just to keep us on track. We don't need much, just every so often we have to tack back on to our course rather than just accept the prevailing wind.

Eric Dirga is a lawyer with an office in Orlando. You can contact him at his website or on Google+.

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