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Speed cameras nail the innocent, too

Justice System

It seems everyone has a speed camera story, and here is mine. Just after Christmas I received a citation from Maryland Safe Zones Automated Speed Enforcement in the mail. It was not my car; I was not in the place at the time specified, and the picture of the license plate was virtually unreadable. I was offered the option of paying $40 or asking for a court date. I chose the latter and received a letter a couple of weeks later stating that I needed to appear in District Court in Towson at 9 a.m. on Jan. 31.

Fortunately, I appeared before a judge who was full of good humor, compassion and common sense. After my name was called and I walked to the front of the courtroom, I was asked if it was my car in the picture. I replied in the negative. Next, the judge looked at the citation and without hesitation said, "Case dismissed. I cannot read this license plate. Not guilty." All of that took about 30 seconds, and I didn't need to present evidence in my defense. Interestingly enough, the same thing happened to the man who was called before me.

To dispute this inaccurate citation, I had to drive 54 miles in morning traffic, which took me 90 minutes of drive time, and pay a $5 parking fee, not to mention the cost of gas and missing time off from work. In addition, I am left with a nagging suspicion that I received the inaccurate citation because I had received a citation in September in Montgomery County, and my name was in the Maryland Safe Zones data base. Did a person or computer match the unreadable license plate to mine because it was similar?

I was not originally opposed to speed camera enforcement because I thought if drivers obeyed the speed limit they would avoid penalty. I was so naïve. Maryland Safe Zones Automated Speed Enforcement incurs no penalty for being inaccurate; the driver bears the burden of proving his or her innocence. Are the citizens of Maryland really safer?

Evelyn Barrett, Hampstead

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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