Local V. State Law: Supreme Court Hears Red-Light Camera Debate

Nov 7, 2013

Credit Lottie Hirsch

Controversial city ordinances allowing cameras to catch people running red lights were the subject of arguments before the Florida Supreme Court Thursday. The issue in the case is whether cities using the cameras are in conflict with state traffic law.

The case stems from two challenges to red-light-camera laws in Orlando and the Miami suburb of Aventura. On behalf of one driver, lawyer Andrew Harris says the penalties for running a red light under city ordinances are more severe than what’s laid out in state statute.

“In Orlando for example, you can actually lose the right to have a business and lose the right to have a permit. Not in Aventura. In Aventura it’s just a lien on your property—it’s not just a lien. It’s a lien on your property," he told the court.

But city lawyers argued that although the penalties are different, they are not necessarily harsher than existing penalties, including getting points on a drivers’ license. Arguing for Orlando, David King said the test wasn't whether the local ordinance was different but rather if it could coexist with state law without violating it.

Lower courts ruled in opposite ways in the two city cases—leaving the legality of the local laws up to the Supreme Court.