It's tough to challenge a speed camera in court: It's you against a camera.
To make matters worse, many lawyers don't even want to take the case -- the fine usually costs much less than an attorney's time. That means most drivers roll over when faced with speed camera fines.
But an Ohio judged struck down a speed camera ordinance in the Village of Elmwood Place, arguing, in part, that the law violated due process since defendants were not afforded an opportunity to contest the camera's maintenance or effectiveness in court. Although speed enforcement ordinances and court procedures vary, attorneys said that the Ohio case suggested that speed camera laws can be effectively challenged in court rooms -- including in the Washington area.
In his decision, Judge Robert Ruehlman called speed cameras a "scam that motorists can't win," writing that the "entire case against the motorist is stacked because the speed monitoring device is calibrated and controlled by Optotraffic," a private company.
In the Washington region, legal challenges to speed cameras have been few and far between.
In one exception, Maryland attorney Robin Ficker represented himself and fended off a speed camera ticket. Ficker successfully argued in January that the police were not allowed to place a speed camera far away from residential zones.
"I think everyone should be challenging these matters in court," Ficker said.
Maryland counties and D.C. bring in millions of dollars from traffic enforcement cameras. In February, the District reported that during the previous month the city had collected $26 million in fines for tickets generation from its system of traffic cameras.
David Akulian, an attorney in D.C., said he does not take traffic camera cases.
"The penalties, when you're looking at 75 or 100 bucks, good luck getting a lawyer who is going to go to court for you for that amount of money," Akulian said. "Challenges are possible, but at this juncture you sort of have to wait for the right case to come along for it to make sense."
Mike Allen, the winning attorney in the Ohio case, urged lawyers to challenge speed camera tickets.
"I think if enough lawyers take a chance and file these things, they will receive a good reception from the judiciary," he said.
Allen said he took up the case after he discussed the topic on an Ohio radio show and received hundreds of calls from potential clients.
"It's government sticking their hand in your pockets and in this case pulling out $105 without giving you an opportunity to dispute it or defend yourself," he said.