RANGER AGAINST WAR: Red Light District, Redux <

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Red Light District, Redux

I am the eye in the sky
Looking at you

I can read your mind
I am the maker of rules
Dealing with fools

I can cheat you blind

--Eye in the Sky
Alan Parsons Project

You got a fast car

But is it fast enough so you can fly away

You gotta make a decision

You leave tonight or live and die this way

--Fast Car
, Tracy Chapman

It seems the concepts of warrants should apply to the red light cameras.

The photos are used in court as evidence, yet that evidence was collected sans warrant. This is contrary to English Common Law and the basic tenets of U.S. legal thought, namely: No Warrant, no evidence.

Call me a fool, but that is how I see it.


Blogger BadTux said...

The 4th Amendment exception they use is the "open view" exception. That is, if something is in open view (like you running a redlight), no expectation of privacy is involved and thus no warrant is needed to collect the evidence. It's as if you murder someone in broad daylight and drop the weapon in the middle of the street. They don't need a warrant to collect the weapon as evidence -- they only need a warrant to enter your home and collect something as evidence.

There is, however, another issue, which is that the Sixth Amendment guarantees you the right to confront your accuser. It's rather hard to confront a computer-driven camera kiosk....

- Badtux the Legal Penguin

Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 4:00:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

What BadTux said; the cop doesn't need a warrant if he arrests you on the street. He needs a warrant to search your car or your house (other than the parts of them within arm's reach if you are arrested in them).

I think even the 6th Amendment issue can be finessed by "confronting" you with the photo of the violation. Seems sketchy to me, but I'm sure that's the way the courts will rule, same as photoradar tickets...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 6:09:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous CholoAzul said...

As mentioned above, there is no ironclad warrant requirement for *all* situations, and the law has long recognized that if you commit a crime in open view, your right to privacy hasn't been violated should there happen to be some authority watching.

Doesn't mean that these nifty little flying peepers won't be misused in a hurry though.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 8:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Bad Tux, Cholo,
I agree, there is no right of privacy, BUT the offense may be in the open, but a machine cannot bear witness.
How does one exercise the right to confront a witness , when that witness is a malfunctioning,or not, camera.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 12:48:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous CholoAzul said...

Well, the Constitution says the right to be confronted *by* the witnesses... a subtle but significant distinction.

In a case where the accused is allowed to see video of a child, or an informant's testimony, they can see and argue against the evidence provided, but they cannot literally face to face confront the witness, due to obvious concerns over intimidation.
Direct camera evidence is accepted under a similar premise... the defense has the right to show that it is false if they can.

But, just as a 'speedy and public' trial has become 'years of waiting for a secret tribunal', there is ample room for abusing the 'confronted by' balancing act.

Always remember that prosecutors are in the business of making (presumably) innocent people look guilty, and defense attorneys are in the business of making (seemingly) guilty people look innocent.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 7:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Actually, Cholo, the Supremes have danced on this one. The 6th Amendment means that in criminal cases your attorney has a right to cross-examine the witness. The cross examination may take place via video but that does not remove the right to confront your accuser. This is true even in the case of evidence from vulnerable minors or informants, which is why many of those cases are settled out of court rather than taken to trial, because there *will* be a confrontational cross-examination by an attorney out to discredit the testimony, period -- as is guaranteed by the Constitution. You cannot be convicted by "secret" witnesses in the United States -- well, unless you're at Gitmo, anyhow. The Supremes have ruled on this multiple times, so that's that -- for criminal cases.

Note the term "criminal cases". The usual argument used by cities is that these red light cameras are not criminal cases, they are civil cases, which have a lower burden of proof and do not have the due process or 6th Amendment rights of criminal cases. The standard of proof is lower in civil cases -- the "preponderance of evidence" rather than "beyond a reasonable doubt" -- and prison or jail time is not a possibility (other than for contempt of court) in civil cases. That argument is, of course, an attempt to side-step the Supremes, but nobody's gotten the Supremes to rule that way, so...

- Badtux the Legal Penguin

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 7:34:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous CholoAzul said...


With these surveillance drones the evidence can be admitted in court on any criminal charge, not just citations, so a lower burden of proof isn't really the controlling factor.

And 'confronted by' doesn't open the door for aggression as far as some folks might think, the range of allowable tactics is pretty narrow.

Defense attorneys have tried to claim the 6th when asking undercovers where their children went to school for example...

So like many legalisms, the 'right' of confrontation is really the classic balancing act between group and individual interests.

I suspect that there will be some curbs placed on 'our records show' Robo-convictions... at least I hope so.

But these cameras aren't going away under the 6th.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 11:56:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous jim at ranger said...

Cholo and BT,
I admit i'm trying to applky logic to a legal construct. I do understand all that you both say, but my disconnect is that a policeman catching you busting a light is one thing, it's quik and dirty and he did witness it. We won't question his validity, only the fact that he did see it. My problem is that the camera evidence IS NOT immediate and is used later to prove your guilt.ISTM that privacy etc is OBE since the act was not immediate. My privacy is valid since there was not a person doing the arrest etc..
Call me hard headed- it's my Fathers fault.
I enjoy your dialogue.

Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 11:00:00 AM GMT-5  

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