Driver Sues Over Radar Van Tickets in California

New Hampshire motorists who use drive time to chat on the phone, read the paper or apply makeup may want to San Jose, California – A driver nailed by a roving radar truck in San Jose is taking his case to court in hopes of getting back the money he spent on speeding tickets and increases in insurance costs for himself and others mailed fines by the city.

The city killed the program that put white radar photo vans on the streets to cut down on speeding after questions were raised in 2006 about the legality of having city engineers – not cops – write citations.

But that was after officials had issued about $5 million worth of tickets through the decade-old program. In 2006 alone, San Jose issued 7,000 tickets using the radar vans that took photos of a speeding car’s license plate and driver. Notices of the violations were then sent to the vehicle’s registered owner.

Jorge Luis Ramirez’s attorney contends that since the tickets were illegal, the city should pay back what it got from the program. Attorney James McManis filed the lawsuit in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Monday.

“They have this illegal program,” he said. “They should do the right thing” and pay back those who were charged under the program.

City Attorney Richard Doyle had not seen the lawsuit as of Monday afternoon, but he said the city didn’t know the program was illegal when it ran it. As soon as officials learned that the state Legislature was questioning such programs, he said, the city stopped using the radar vans.

“It was a program that everyone had operated in good faith,” he said.

Doyle said the courts sanctioned the program because judges and commissioners signed off on the tickets when they were brought to court. People who questioned the legality of the program, he said, could have appealed.

Ramirez was twice ticketed by the radar vans – both times for going less than 10 miles an hour over the speed limit. He paid the tickets but later decided to bring the suit after friends told him it was unusual to be cited for such a small infraction

Leslie Griffy,

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