Honolulu Lite


Sunday, January 13, 2002

Drivers will use technology
and courts to fight cameras

A prominent attorney in town who is too smart to allow me to use his name in this space calls the state's new camera speeding enforcement program a "regressive tax" and says one way to combat it would be for cars to "go slow until we bankrupt these (plural expletive describing the private company officials who get a financial cut of speeding fines)."

"If the state wanted more money, why didn't it just raise taxes?" he said.

Of course, state transportation officials continue to spread the fiction that safety is the motivating factor behind program. People are not going to swallow that for much longer, especially now that the first photo tickets are in the mail. A friend of mine got one for going 44 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone. Of course, the speed trap had been set up right outside the Likelike Tunnel. Inside the tunnel, the speed is 45 and suddenly when you emerge the speed is 35. If you were getting a kickback on every ticket issued, you'd set up your cameras there too, which is exactly what Affiliated Computer Services, the private company running the program, did. Such speed traps show that making money is the root of this program, both for ACS and the state. I talked to a number of defense attorneys about the new program and what Hawaii residents can do get rid of it or to avoid tickets.

Since money is the motivating factor behind ACS running the system, the obvious thing to do would be to make sure company makes no money. So one strategy would be for every driver to go the speed limit until the company goes bankrupt. This is unlikely to happen because it is almost impossible not to exceed the ridiculously low (not to mention, arbitrary) posted speed limits on some roads.

The use of counter-technology, however will help drivers avoid tickets. A return to CB (citizens band) radios in cars and trucks would render the speed traps impotent. Remember when mainland truckers used CB radios to alert drivers to speed traps? ( "Ten four, good buddy! This is Little Mongoose lettin' you know there's a County Mountie hidin' behind the Exit 44 sign!")

Radio Shack and other electronics stores sell CBs but wary drivers are mainly scooping up "laser defuser" units. These gadgets detect the camera's laser beam and shoots one back at it, blocking the photo. The same legislators who snuck this program into existence no doubt will try to outlaw the anti-laser devices. But one defense attorney suspects that police officers, who don't get a cut of tickets they issue, won't be so keen to chase down drivers for the financial benefit of ACS.

If you get a photo ticket, defense attorneys say to go to court and ask for a trial. You can exercise your right to remain silent and the state will have to prove you were driving. Since the photos focus on license plates, not the driver, the prosecution will lose. Attorneys added that if the thousands of people who receive tickets in the mail demand a trial, the system will grind to a stop.

Currently, if you don't contest your ticket, you don't have to pay the full fine. This may be illegal, attorneys said, because it essentially penalizes your right to proclaim your innocence. Sadly, under this new regime, everyone is presumed guilty.

Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail

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