A bus recently passed by a photo van parked on Pali Highway that was checking the speed of traffic.

Photo ticket
evidence challenged

At issue is whether the tickets
should include a photo of the driver

By Nelson Daranciang

A state judge is set to decide the fate of hundreds of photo speeding citations headed for trial.

Honolulu District Judge Leslie Ann Hayashi heard arguments yesterday as to whether registration information is enough to prove that the owners were the ones driving when their vehicles were tagged for speeding by the traffic cameras.

Attorneys expect to receive a written decision tomorrow.

The first photo speeding citation trials are scheduled to begin next week.

If Hayashi rules that people cannot be held responsible for the citations because they are the registered owners, the decision could effectively shut down the entire photo enforcement program, said Michael Kam, defense attorney.

"This is a test case for all of the cases," Kam said.

Kam and another attorney argued for the cases to be dismissed.

They said that with no other evidence of who was driving the vehicle, holding the registered owners responsible is unconstitutional.

The state law that established the photo enforcement program dictates that the registered owners are presumed to have been the drivers unless someone else declares being the driver.

"A considerable number of cases will depend on the registered owner inference," said Rene Sonobe-Hong, deputy city prosecutor.

State judges have accepted the presumption that the registered owners were the drivers when people showed up to challenge the citations in their initial court hearing, which is a civil proceeding, judges have said.

Judges can decide such cases based on the "preponderance of the evidence," which is the lowest standard of proof.

When the cases go to trial, it becomes a criminal proceeding where the standard of proof rises to the highest level of "beyond a reasonable doubt."

And at least one judge has been telling people that if they chose trial, the state will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they were the ones driving.

State House members have voted to address the issue by requiring citations to include the photograph of the driver as well as the vehicle's license plate. However, their colleagues in the state Senate would rather repeal the program.

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