Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Redneck Speed Trap

We all know there are speed traps out there.  When we think of speed traps of yesteryear, we usually picture an image of a small town sheriff or deputy hiding behind a barn waiting for you to come speeding by on a country road that has a ridiculously low posted speed limit.  Today, we think of speed traps as either a radar gun that picks you up before you even see the police officer or, more likely, the ever-watching camera.  Whatever the machine says you were doing, the laws take the readings as gospel truth.

Some local politicians, however, figured out how to make the technology of speed cameras generate millions of dollars for the town, county, or state by re-inventing the concept of the small town police officer hiding behind a barn.  They decided to post ridiculously low speed limits where a driver most likely will miss the posted limit and then let the camera start clicking and making money.

When a police officer writes you a ticket, you can go to court and, if the officer fails to appear, the judge throws your ticket out.  The reason goes back to our Constitution.  The accused has the right to face his accuser in court. 

When a camera accuses you of speeding, a picture is sent in the mail with instructions of how to pay the fine.  Who does the picture go to?  Not the driver who committed the speeding offense.  It goes to the owner of the vehicle.  If the owner can remember who drove the vehicle some four to six weeks prior to receiving the picture, he can be a snitch and point a finger at the offending driver and be released from responsibility.  If he can't remember if the driver was his wife, one of his children, a friend, a coworker, or an extended family member and no one owns up to it, the owner is stuck with the fine for a crime he did not commit.  By paying the fine for a crime he did not commit, he incriminated himself.  The vehicle owner's fifth amendment rights were violated.  (If the vehicle owner points to the spouse, the owner's fifth amendment rights were still violated under the spousal privilege clause.)  Justice hasn't been served.  Making money for the local municipality has.  

Remember how, if a police officer writes you a ticket, he has to appear in court else the ticket gets thrown out?  Obviously, a camera can't show up in court, but the owners of the equipment, who are supposed to make sure the equipment is properly calibrated and running without errors, can, but the owners of the equipment (the real accusers) aren't required to show up in court, a clear violation of our sixth amendment rights.  If the accused (speeder) wants to face his accuser in court, it is his responsibility to subpoena the company running the speed equipment.

Most people end up paying the fine, whether or not they committed the alleged crime of speeding.  And the camera keeps clicking away, generating, rightly or wrongly, millions of dollars per year for the town, county, or state. 

What did Cambridge's Town Hall have to say about the camera, when asked?  Turns out, Cambridge does not own the camera.  Cambridge (presumably authorized by the mayor and town council) contracted with a private company to install the camera.  The agreement stipulates that Cambridge receives a percentage of all fines collected.  The private company receives the rest.  If a citizen has a complaint about the camera or the signs posted, the citizen needs to complain to the private company, not the City of Cambridge. 

In effect, Cambridge has handed over it's law enforcement powers to a private company, one that is only concerned with making a profit, not with what the driver is actually doing.  Because the company is more concerned with making a profit rather than ensuring our roads are safe and laws are enforced equally, the signs are placed inconspicuously and speed limits dictated at much lower speeds than the speeds on roads around the school and around surrounding area schools without a camera.  And we all have unwittingly handed over our fifth and sixth amendment rights to a private, for profit company.

Everyone should be outraged that any level of government feels they can shirk their responsibility of providing law enforcement by outsourcing the job to a private, for-profit company.  Today it's speeding.  Tomorrow it's wearing seatbelts.  It won't be long before the moment you step outside your door, a camera will be watching you - ready to give you a ticket for spitting in the grass or any other number of ridiculous ways one can get fined.

The video below shows a "speed trap" in Cambridge, MD.  All around the school, the speed limit is either 35 or 40.  On one side of the school, the speed limit is 25, except during certain hours, where another sign instructs you that during certain hours, the speed limit is 15.  There are no flashing lights on top of the sign to draw your attention to the reduced speed during certain hours and the sign is placed right where you make a turn and are most likely to miss it.  The video should be self explanatory and includes a "bonus track", a short clip of an elementary school not far away that probably has the highest posted speed limit of any school zone in America.  It is added to contrast how easy it is for one to miss a speed limit sign, but still believe he is within a safe speed for a school zone .  The speed trap is not the redneck way of doing things.  It's the greedy politicians' way of bleeding more money out of the average citizen. 

If any parts of this story outrage you, please feel free to let the mayor and commissioners know how you feel.  Be sure to request the contact information of the private, for-profit company running the speed cameras so you can let them know what you think of their regard for profit over fair enforcement of our laws and their disregard for our fifth and sixth amendment rights.

Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley


Jackie Vickers
(H) 410-228-5563  (C) 443-521-7188

Donald Sydnor (Council President)
(H) 410-221-1229  (C) 443-205-3628

Octavene Saunders
(H) 410-228-2250  (C) 443-477-7032

Gage Thomas
(C) 410-330-0321

Robert Hanson
(H) 410-228-5814

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks