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Anti-Speed Camera Effort is Launched

It was only a matter of hours before a challenge emerged to the General Assembly's just-passed bill allowing speed cameras throughout Maryland.

Daniel Zubairi, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Maryland's 8th district in 2006, this week launched a website called Maryland for Responsible Enforcement, which has filed papers with the Board of Elections to get a referendum on the 2010 ballot. The goal? To overturn the legislation allowing cameras in work zones and near schools, which is on track to become law with Gov. Martin O'Malley's signature.

The website's home page features a camera and a header that reads
It describes a bi-partisan coalition of Marylanders "seeking just traffic laws."

"We are composed of citizens and elected officials from around Maryland who realize speed cameras are not the solution," says the mission statement. "Speed cameras bring about many important questions in regards to safety, privacy, and taxing among other doubts.

The speed-camera bill would allow the first statewide use of the devices, which were previously allowed only in Montgomery County. Safety advocates have pushed for several years for cameras on major roads as well, but were rebuffed by lawmakers who said the cameras represent too much government instrusion and don't offer speeders enough due process. Their use in schools and work zones became a workable compromise this year.

Zubairi lost a GOP primary to challenge Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Montgomery). He has been active in youth outreach for the Maryland Republican Party.

By Lisa Rein  |  April 17, 2009; 11:49 AM ET
Categories:  General Assembly , Lisa Rein  
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I'm all for it. Also glad that I got this though

Posted by: macuser25 | April 17, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

When I was the Republican Nominee for Montgomery County Council in 2006 & the 2008 special election. My platform was anti-speed camera. Here's why:

1.) Crime enforcement. Quite often, the police pick up outstanding warrents with one-on-one interaction due to minor traffic violations. Speed Cameras take this away. Giuliani had the police go after the turn-key jumpers in the NY City Metro system. Guess what, many had parole violations etc. & crime went down.

2.) I've examined charts of high accident areas. Often, the speed cameras are not placed in high accident areas like they are supposed to be.

3.) Just another example of a steadilly growing government erroding our personal freedoms. I don't want an electronic record of my location. A human right is travelling from point A to point B without Big Brother watching.

Mark D. Fennel
Robin Ficker Supporter in Special Election April 21 and May 19

Posted by: mfennel1 | April 17, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

My family fleet has been a good money-maker for MoCo with those speed cameras. You know what? I slow down on Brookville Road and over along Randolph.

If we want to encourage people to use greener methods of transit then we have to make the transitways safer for them as they wait for the bus, bike or walk.

Posted by: RedBird27 | April 17, 2009 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Speed cameras are completely effective in enforcing the law near schools and other pedestrian-heavy areas. They do so in a cost-effective manner which preserves our tax dollars.

Why does the GOP want to sabotage what seems to be a win-win situation? Why do some drivers feel they are too good to obey the law?

I will NOT be visiting this Republican Zubairi's website. Is he trying to increase pedestrian death's near our schools?


Posted by: free-donny | April 17, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

If everybody loves speed cameras, as our local officials seem to insist is the case, then all the camera supporters should be signing the petition to validate their view. Or maybe they're afraid to learn that ordinary people don't like having the government looking over their shoulders all the time waiting for us to make mistakes.

Posted by: afpre42 | April 18, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Apre42. I don't think anyone loves speed camera's, but many seem to charaterize law enforcement with "government looking over their shoulder all the time waiting for us to make mistakes".

Are you suggesting that laws not be enforced...or that law enforcement should not be able to use cost-effective methods?

Either way, I just don't see the sense in this argument.

Posted by: free-donny | April 18, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I believe that they should not make law enforcement cost effective by eliminating important rights of the accused and by removing personal accountability by human law enforcement officers from the process. And I believe when the county sets a specific revenue goal for a law enforcement program like Montgomery County has for it's Safe Speed program this year, then there's an inherent conflict. Were we talking about reducing the rights of serial killers, rather than the rights of drivers, O'Malley would probably be vigorously defending them.

But Donny, if you feel so strongly about it, please feel free to send send $23.75 payable to The Comptroller of Maryland and $16.25 payable to ACS State and Local Solutions anytime you exceed the legally posted speed limit by any amount for any period of time, stop your car 6 inches past the white line at a stoplight, step into a crosswalk when the "walk" signal isn't showing, etc.

Posted by: afpre42 | April 18, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

OK, now we get to the heart of the matter. APre42, I'm very interested in this argument. Please make us understand how the speed cameras accomplish what you say they do:

"...eliminating important rights of the accused and by removing personal accountability by human law enforcement officers..."

Perhaps these points just are misunderstood. I've also heard that the cameras are an "invasion of privacy"...but never thought the argument made sense. Clear this on up for me also. I will read with an open mind. Thanks.

Posted by: free-donny | April 18, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

You asked for it.

Senate Bill 277 clearly allows machines to be operated by someone other than a sworn law enforcement officer. The law allows the agency to designate any "representative" and call them the operator. SB277 also allows calibration logs, maintenance logs, and the citation itself to be admitted as proof of a violation. And it specifically lowers the burden of proof to "preponderance of the evidence", which if you read OTHER sections of the the maryland transportation articles you will see that those reductions in defendants rights are NOT written into them. There have been several news reports where a person has requested a hearing for a speed camera ticket and were told by the judge "the only allowable "not guilty" plea against a speed camera citation is that another person was driving and to present that driver". That sounds a lot like the existing speed camera laws have been translated to mean "the machine is always right".

Defendants have not been allowed to raise the issue when the local government has not complied with the restrictions built into the law (and in fact they are not in compliance with some parts of existing law, particularly the prohibition against per-ticket payments to contractors -- which is another reduction of rights because the company providing and handling the evidence against you only gets paid if you are found guilty).

I also think it is unfair to out-of-state drivers who can get a citation 30 days later and have no recollection of speeding on the day in question. There’s no deterrent in that and it makes it impossible for the defendant to gather evidence in their defense. Because a police officer never need face the accused, he doesn't need to take accountability and say “oh gee, maybe this situation WAS misleading to drivers”.

When people say "Invasion of privacy" they do not mean it in the sense of having someone literally looking in your bedroom window. They mean a vast expansion of warrantless government surveillance over ordinary people which creates a sense that we need to be watched like criminals. It is also obvious to me, with the number of speed cams set to double in Montgomery County this year, that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg, and that the cameras are going to become more and more prevalent every year, going after many other types of (probably minor and harmless) violations.

Posted by: afpre42 | April 19, 2009 7:38 AM | Report abuse

An important point to also remember is that speed cameras ticket the driver after the infraction.

If this was about safety and not another tax to raise money we would increase police presence,install speed bumps, stop signs, and other measures to stop speeding at the moment it happens. Instead this is about raising money afterward.

Speed cameras also call into question due process, big brothers role, and the very issue that the safety benefit is not often seen. Many studies have found erratic driving around the cameras, and some studies have shown increased accidents and deaths were cameras are.

If you support them that is fine, but why not sign the petition and put this to a vote on the ballot? That way those in favor can cast a ballot for and those who see how flawed and how much of a money grab this is can vote against!

Posted by: jt082005 | April 19, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

I am committed to reading all the various viewpoints of other posters...we all pay taxes and most of us vote. However, with all due respsect, this invasion of privacy and other arguments just sounds like complete PARANOIA.

If you don't speed in fron of that school, you won't get a speeding ticket. Pretty simple. No one should take this personally - its not about you ...its about saving lives. How can anyone NOT understand this?

Apre42...I know see clearly, that you must not live in MoCo or pay taxes here. Out of state drivers should obey the law just like everyone else. Sorry. These cameras improve safety and save our tax dollars.


Posted by: free-donny | April 20, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

"Freedom's not lost in one fell swoop -- it's lost one camera at a time," Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Cecil) said yesterday before voting against the measure.

When I read the above statement I had to wonder what freedom this person was talking about. Was it the freedom to blow through a school zone at 15 -> 20 MPH over the speed limit without fear of repercussion? Was it the freedom to scare the wits out of highway construction workers by ignoring safety mearsures (reduced speeds) designed to protect them?

Obviously his "Freedom" to speed is more important to him than the safety of our children and our highway construction workers.

Posted by: krla | April 20, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

1. You have no reasonable expectation of privacy about your car or the contents of your car that may be visible to anyone on the outside. That issue has been frequently litigated, and the courts, including the US Supreme Court, have consistently maintained that stance. Anyone, including the government, can take a picture of your car or record its location in any place and do whatever they want with that information. A police officer has much more latitude to legally "invade your privacy" than a speed camera that cannot see inside your car. An officer can stop you for a wide variety of reasons, and can even stop you for driving the speed limit if, in the officer's opinion, it is unsafe to do so.

2. Speeding is a strict liability offense. If you were exceeding the speed limit at all, you are guilty of the offense. Under the new law, you must exceed the posted speed limit by 12 MPH to get a ticket. That means you must be going faster than 47 MPH in a 35 zone, or more than 33% above the speed limit.

3. The Attorney General has looked into the issue about how speed camera vendors are paid and found there is no violation of State law. Although this has not been litigated to an appeals court, the AG opinion is solid.

4. Yes, there is a lag between the time a violation is recorded and the time it is received by the vehicle owner, but the driver does have a speedometer. We could require erection of big flashing lights that say "You just got a ticket," but when you don't get a ticket because the review determines there was not a clear violation, you will be left wondering. For the record, thousands of "violations" in Montgomery County have been discarded for evidentiary or procedural reasons.

5. Why has nobody complained about the same issues vis-a-vis parking tickets? You usually don't get to confront the officer, a record is made of the time and location of your vehicle, and the vehicle owner is required to pay even if the owner was not the one who parked.

6. I agree the law should require speed cameras be operated by law enforcement. This provision was inserted to allow municipalities without police departments to run their own camera systems. If you care about public safety that much, you should create a police department.

Posted by: Lies_and_Statistics | April 21, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse


1) The fact that the government is so comfortable telling us that, because we have no right to privacy in open spaces, the government can conduct ANY amount of surveillance no matter how sweeping, should be a concern for people. If this exact same plan had been introduced by Bush as part of the Patriot Act, I expect many who now support it would be opposed.

2) The highway work zones include expressway >45mph, meaning 55mph roadways not 35mph. Now put up a camera 40 yards after a 15mph drop in the speed limit and it's not 12mph anymore. Regardless, 12mph is a "special introductory offer". This and other restrictions will be removed over time.

You do point out that 1mph over is illegal. But can anyone who drives, be they a police officer, politician, or priest, honestly say they never exceed the speed limit or break other traffic laws? It needs to be reasonably possible to go about your day to day life without breaking the law in order for the people to take "Just obey the law and you have nothing to worry about" at face value.

3) The AG office's "solid" opinion was never published along with all their other opinions, specifically said "a court may well come to a different conclusion". The AG is a political position, and AG, the governor, Ike Leggett, and many state delegates all attend each other's fundraisers. When asked about a contract that's been in effect for over a year, with legislation pending which the governor had political capital invested in, the OAG would never write a decision that shuts the program down and leaves local (Democratic) officials in a bind. The courts, not the OAG, decide what is legal and this issue is the subject of a pending lawsuit.

If the county is allowed to continue violating the intent of the law on a technicality, it will prove that any restrictions built into the law meant to keep these devices from being abused are meaningless, since the government can find a way to circumvent any restrictions.

5) I read stories about things like DC's defective parking meters and street sweeper cameras from time to time. If Montgomery County wrote into their budget that they needed to bring in $15million in parking ticket revenues, and they started thinking up "creative" ways to meet that quota, I think you would hear more complaints about parking tickets. When speed cameras are no longer new you'll hear less about them. That's when the abuse will really begin.

Posted by: afpre42 | April 23, 2009 6:34 AM | Report abuse

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