Trials & Litigation

City Dismisses $40 Speeding Ticket re Litigator's Motionless Car, But Judge Nixes His Bid for Costs

Attorney Daniel P. Doty was looking forward to his day in traffic court in Baltimore on Friday. He was ready to go to trial to defend a $40 city speed-camera citation he was issued, concerning an idling vehicle reportedly shown in photos on the ticket to be stationary with its brake lights on.

But the ticket was dismissed by the city on Friday before the Astrachan Gunst Thomas Rubin litigation partner got a chance to present his case. Doty then asked the judge to award him costs, but was nixed, reports the Baltimore Sun (sub. req.).

In a telephone interview with the ABA Journal on Friday afternoon, Doty said he was disappointed not to be able to try his case, which he had been looking forward to. “I did ask for costs,” he continued, “and I asked the judge to view the video and make a determination whether the proceeding was brought by the city in good faith and with substantial justification and if not to award me the costs of coming out to defend and to compensate my firm for the revenue it lost.”

That motion, of course, was not successful; the judge said it was not in her purview to make such a determination and simply dismissed the ticket, according to Doty and the Sun.

His case attracted media attention in part because, as the Sun has been reporting, there are questions about whether speed cameras throughout the city are accurate and whether a human review process which is supposed to catch any errors before tickets are issued is as effective as it should be.

Doty’s case was at the end of the docket, which otherwise appeared to be alphabetical by defendant name. “I suspect that they didn’t want everyone else in the courtroom to hear what had happened to me,” he told the ABA Journal. Several other defendants who appeared before his case was called seemed to have had similar experiences, he said, telling the judge something along the lines of “Hey, I think this camera in my neighborhood is unreliable because it’s going off all the time.”

While he presumably would have been better off financially simply to have paid the ticket, Doty said he wasn’t sorry he didn’t. “In a lot of ways it was just standing up for the principle of the thing,” he said. “It was just so wrong.”

Representatives of the speed camera contractor and the city transportation department, which oversees the ticketing program, spoke with the Baltimore Sun (sub. req.) recently.

Chris Gilligan of speed camera contractor Xerox State & Local Solutions said an ongoing audit of the photo enforcement program has pinpointed certain camera locations for “additional manual review.” However, “we believe the systemwide error rate is very low,” he continued, noting that “we strive for perfection, and when notified of issues, we work with the city to correct them quickly.”

And, un a brief statement provided to the newspaper by Adrienne Barnes, the transportation department said it takes any errors seriously and “will do everything possible to prevent technical equipment errors and ensure the program continues to improve traffic safety in Baltimore.”

A police department spokesman told the Baltimore Sun (sub. req.) last week that a “perfect storm of errors” resulted in the speeding ticket to Doty.

The ABA Journal spoke Monday morning with George Nilson, who serves as city solicitor. While his office does not oversee the ticketing program and he has no personal knowledge of Doty’s case, he said that speed cameras, like radar guns, are subject to technical challenges and need to be recalibrated on occasion. Large vehicles driving by can also cause a distortion in speed camera measurements, he noted.

Earlier coverage: “Lawyer Plans Court Challenge to $40 Speeding Ticket, Says Camera Shows His Car Was Stationary”

CBS Baltimore (Jan. 2012): “2 Mobile Speed Cameras In Baltimore Set On Fire; Police Looking For Suspect”

Baltimore Sun (sub. req.): “Lawmaker Pitches $1,000 Penalty for ‘Bogus’ Speed Camera Tickets”

WBAL (June 2012): “City Refunding Thousands Of Speed Camera Tickets “

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