June 24, 2009 in City

Drivers sue 19 cities over traffic camera fines

By The Spokesman-Review
 

OLYMPIA – Eight ticketed drivers on Wednesday filed a lawsuit alleging that 19 Washington cities, including Spokane, are overcharging people who get automated traffic-camera fines.

A Spokane police spokeswoman said that the department hadn’t had time to fully review the case, but that the city’s traffic-camera ordinances were thoroughly vetted before they took effect.

“We’re pretty sure we had our ducks in a row before the cameras ever went in,” said Officer Teresa Fuller. Based on a first look at the lawsuit, she said. “It doesn’t seem to apply to Spokane.”

Attorneys for the eight are seeking class-action status, which would dramatically expand the number of plaintiffs.

The 2005 law allowing such fines limited how high the charges could be.

“The intent of the Legislature was primarily safety, not raising of revenue,” said the complaint, filed Wednesday in King County Superior Court.

State law says that traffic-camera fines “shall not exceed the amount of the fine issued for other parking infractions within the jurisdiction,” according to the complaint.

Spokane’s fines comply with that, Fuller said.

“We have a $250 parking citation in the city of Spokane,” she said. “Our photo-red citations are half of that.”

The lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Rob Williamson of Bainbridge Island, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The suit was brought by four Seattle residents, two from Lynnwood, one from Lakewood and one from Puyallup. Their fines ranged from $64 to $124 per violation. One man, Seattle’s Mark Contratto, was fined $124 on each of two consecutive days for failing to come to a complete stop before turning right on a red light.

The defendants include the cities of Spokane, Auburn, Bonney Lake, Bremerton, Burien, Federal Way, Fife, Issaquah, Lacey, Lake Forest Park, Lakewood, Lynnwood, Monroe, Moses Lake, Puyallup, Renton, SeaTac, Seattle and Tacoma.

Dan Mitchinson contributed to this report.


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