Dreiman: Revenue Generation Trumps Due Process in Speed Camera Legislation

(Greenfield, Indiana) If one key Hoosier legislator gets his way this legislation session, revenue streams for local government will trump due process. That is an unfortunately reality coming out of our GOP-dominated state legislature.

Rep. Ed Soliday’s HB-1404 authorizes the use of speed cameras in work zones and on school bus stop arms. The legislation is before the House Roads and Transportation Committee.

I have a number of concerns with this bill and am hopeful legislators will come to the same conclusion I arrived. While I focus on the problems with cameras in work zones, you will be able to discern that many of the same issues will be problematic in the case of school bus arm cameras.

My first concern with HB-1404 is fundamental to our system of justice. Under HB-1404, the vehicle owner will automatically be presumed to be the operator of the vehicle when a violation is alleged. In our courts, whether discussing civil infractions or criminal violations, it must be a foundational principle that the suspect is presumed innocent. Section 10 of HB-1404 turns that presumption on its head and calls for a presumption of guilt. Such a presumption is unconscionable. The burden to prove an offense occurred and that it was perpetrated by a particular person lies solely upon the state. If the technology to be deployed is so poor that we must destroy the presumption of innocence to justify its use, then that alone is enough to reject this legislation.

The second issue with HB-1404 is also constitutional in nature. As important as the presumption of innocence is our judicial system’s insistence that the accused be allowed to confront his accuser. HB 1404 makes that confrontation impossible, as a suspect cannot possibly cross examine a camera. One cannot ask a camera if it was experiencing a glitch. There is no ability to ask a camera if it took a picture because of a software problem. Indeed, we have evidence from Chicago where cameras have been proven to have ticketed parked cars. Maryland is another example of the disastrous effects caused by traffic cameras. In Maryland, traffic cameras were demonstrated to have an error rate of up to ten percent, which resulted in millions of dollars of refunds to citizens. As shown by a large number of actual cases, these cameras are unreliable, and placing a citizen in the position of not being able to confront this mechanized accuser would be irresponsible on the part of the legislature.

The third problem with this legislation is its over-inclusiveness. Currently, an area is designated as a work site when workers are present or when warning lights are flashing (presumably because workers are present). Under HB-1404, an area would be considered a work zone 24 hours per day, regardless of the presence of workers. While Rep. Soliday may claim that “the goal is deterrence, it’s not fundraising,” this 24-hour provision obviously appears more geared toward revenue generation than any desire to protect workers who aren’t even there.

There are clearly due process concerns with HB-1404’s presumption of guilt and the inability to confront one’s accuser. Add to that the proven unreliability of these cameras and what has the appearance of revenue generation rather than worker safety, and this legislation begs for strong opposition.

Author: Brandon Dreiman is an active member in the Hancock County Libertarian Party.

Scroll to Top