There's something profoundly unfair about red-light cameras, and I don't like them. In Minneapolis a county judge has ruled that the red-light cameras are unconstitutional, and from what I know about their operation in California the same principles may apply under our state constitution.

More than 26,000 people have received tickets under the city's Stop on Red ordinance, which presumes the owner was the driver during the offense. The owner must prove that someone else was driving to avoid a conviction.

But District Judge Mark Wernick said the ordinance is invalid because it provides vehicle owners with less due process rights in court than the state statute. State law for a similar violation requires the state to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" who was driving. But Minneapolis' ordinance shifted the burden to the owners to prove their innocence.

And communities cannot have ordinances in conflict with state law, the ruling noted.

Studies show that red-light cameras produce only a modest reduction in accidents at intersections where they are employed, and that their primary effect is to reduce right-angle crashes in exchange for more rear-end crashes. The main reason they're employed is because they're an easy revenue stream for municipalities. As with many traffic laws and enforcement patterns, red-light cameras are more like a randomly applied tax than an actual safety program.

The ACLU has my thanks for bringing this lawsuit.

(HT: Glenn Reynolds.)

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