Watch CBS News

Former Judge Challenges Constitutionality Of Red-Light Cameras

LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBS 2/WCBS 880/1010 WINS) -- Click … you're caught.

Those red-light cameras are popping up at more and more intersections. And if you're photographed running a red light you have little recourse but to pay the fine.


Not so fast, said a former judge who's suing Nassau County, claiming red-light cameras are unconstitutional.

LISTEN: WCBS  880 L.I. Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reports from Long Beach

Last fall, Lee Levine of Long Beach was taking her 100-year-old mother to see a doctor when the light at an intersection changed to yellow, and then, she said, quickly to red. She didn't want to slam on the brakes so she went through the light.

A few weeks later, she received something in the mail.

"It's a notice of liability," former Judge Samuel Levine told CBS 2's Don Dahler. 

Her husband is now fighting it and another red light violation his wife got, saying the process violates a number of rights.

"The presumption is, you're guilty. That's a serious violation of the United States Constitution," Samuel Levine said.

The way the red-light cameras work is, there are sensors here in the road. As soon as that light turns red, any light passing over the sensors activates it. It can tell how long you were in the intersection, how long it was red before you entered the intersection and how fast you were going.

The data are sent to a private company in Arizona, which analyzes the image and, if the technician determines a violation has occurred, the picture is sent back to Nassau County and a notice is mailed, which includes a $50 fine.

Samuel Levine doesn't deny his wife ran the red light. His gripe is not getting to face his accuser.

"You have no right to challenge and question a photo," Levine told 1010 WINS' Mona Rivera. "You have no right to question the technicians that installed the equipment which might have been defective."

Fordham Law professor James Cohen said red-light camera violations are administrative, not unlike parking tickets.

"The judge is wrong. He gets to face an accuser if it's a criminal case, which it's not. It's an administrative proceeding," Cohen said.

The violations carry no points on your license, and don't impact insurance.

And Nassau County Attorney John Ciampoli said there is a process to contest them.

"You have the right to go to an administrative hearing to confront that photographic evidence, which is a government document, and to challenge it if it's wrong," Ciampoli said.

But Judge Levine said in this case, technology is trumping civil rights. Tuesday's hearing on the matter was postponed.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.