The city is red-lighting the use of photo radar to
catch speeders until it finishes reviewing a court ruling that said
the program violates local and city laws.
The decision by County Judge Mary Celeste affected only the four
tickets she dismissed, but the defendants said they may challenge
the entire program.
Celeste ruled Monday that Denver's program violates city law by
giving police powers to a private contractor, who prepares and
sends the summonses.
And the program violates state law by appearing to compensate
the contractor based on the volume of tickets issued, she said.
"We are stopping the photo radar ticketing operation effective immediately until we have a chance to review the judge's decision and make whatever changes we need to bring it into compliance with the law," said Capt. John Lamb of the Denver Police Department's
traffic operations bureau.
The city has not decided whether to appeal the judge's ruling,
said Assistant City Attorney Jim Thomas.
One of the people who had his tickets dismissed is Gary Pirosko, a lawyer and former sheriff's deputy.
"We're relying on technology in a situation where we'd normally
rely on the human judgment of the police officer," Pirosko said.
Denver uses cameras in white roadside vans to catch on film
speeding motorists and their license plates. Tickets are then
mailed to the violators.
Boulder and Fort Collins also use photo radar to catch speeders.
Boulder traffic planner Mike Sweeney said his city tries to
avoid the issues raised in Denver by keeping the power of writing
tickets in the police department. The contractor takes the
pictures, and police decide which photos are clear enough and which
violations deserve a ticket.
Critics, including some legislators, argue photo radar is an
invasion of privacy. They also contend that cities use it to make
money rather than keep the roads safe.
Denver officials defend photo radar as a safety measure with
solid results in slowing down drivers. They say the number of cars
that pass the vans and trigger cameras by driving 10 mph over the
limit has dropped dramatically as people have become aware of the
Photo radar tickets come with a $40 fine, but the fine is
doubled in school zones.