Judge Upholds Legality of Rochester Red-Light Camera Program
A pilot program in which surveillance cameras were installed near traffic signals in Rochester to catch motorists running red lights has been upheld by a judge who rejected the constitutional challenges of an attorney whose vehicle was among those caught on camera.
A worker installs a red-light camera in Rochester. Photo: Annette Lein
Supreme Court Justice J. Scott Odorisi (See Profile) said attorney Lawrence Krieger could not "overcome the exceedingly strong presumption" of constitutionality attached to the 2009 law.
The law, V&T §111-b, allowed the city of Rochester to install up to 50 cameras at intersections and authorized a civil fine of $50. Under the law, the owner, whether or not he or she was driving the vehicle, is liable for the fine but can sue the actual driver for indemnification. The statute makes clear that a finding of liability does not constitute a conviction or add points to one's drivers license.
Records show that Krieger received notice in December 2012 that a car he owns had failed to stop at the proper distance before a red light. After a hearing, he was assessed a $50 fine.
Krieger, represented by Michael Steinberg of Rochester, then challenged the constitutionality of the program, claiming it violated his substantive and procedural due process rights. He argued that the program is quasi-criminal in nature, that it improperly imposes vicarious liability and that the administrative hearing process is a sham because any defense would be meaningless.
Adam Clark, arguing for the city, countered that the law serves the legitimate governmental interest of promoting public safety while preserving law enforcement resources. He also denied that the law is quasi-criminal and argued that the administrative process meets all due process requirements.
Odorisi said in Krieger v. City of Rochester, 13/06121, there is no question the law was enacted for public safety purposes, but said whether it is making Rochester safer or not is irrelevant.
"The soundness of legislative intent must be assessed against the facts as known at the time the legislative body acted, not as they presently stand," Odorisi wrote in a 27-page decision. "[P]laintiff's protests about the usefulness of the red light program to negate the previous intent are unavailing. Rather, it is more appropriately a lobbying consideration against extending the laws past their December 1, 2014 expiration dates."