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Appeals Court refuses to hear Spokane Photo Red case

By Jeff Humphrey, KXLY4 Reporter , jeffhu@kxly.com
Published On: Dec 29 2011 06:46:47 AM CST
Updated On: Dec 29 2011 07:50:51 AM CST
SPOKANE, Wash. -

Spokane's controversial Photo-Red program has run into another legal roadblock. In June a judge found the way photo-red tickets were being issued was illegal; on Thursday the court of appeals refused to overturn that decision saying it didn't have jurisdiction.

So what will happen to the program? Well you will still get a ticket in the mail if you run a red light in Spokane and get caught on camera doing it. If nothing else this case pointed out a flaw in the ticketing process that the police department has now corrected.

However Thursday's decision also further limits the city's legal options and 14,000 tickets are now a step closer to being thrown out.

When most people are confronted with video recordings of themselves running red lights here in Spokane they end up paying their fines. But when Jennifer Lee got her ticket she got mad and then got an attorney. That's when the late John Clark figured out the citation Lee had received was generated in Arizona.

"All the affidavits suggest an officer pushes a button here in Spokane, Washington and authorizes a person, a clerk or employee of ATS down in Arizona to affix the officer's signature," Clark said.

Clark and his colleagues took their case to Superior Court where a judge ruled Spokane's photo red citations had to be signed here in Washington State and Lee's ticket was dismissed.

"I think it's good. I think we as citizens are required to uphold the law and I think it's great that our judges require the city to do the same thing," Lee said at the time her ticket was dismissed.

The city fixed the problem by having Spokane Police Officer Teresa Fuller sign each photo red ticket in a city hall print shop instead of allowing them to be signed in Arizona.

The judge's decision didn't automatically throw out 14,000 other photo-red tickets but did make them easier for people to fight.

"So anyone receiving an infraction now just don't throw it away. You just have to raise the issue that we brought and it's going to get dismissed," attorney Dean Chuang said.

The threat of having tickets dismissed prompted the city to ask the Court of Appeals to overturn the judge's decision; the court refused to hear the case.

Now that the court of appeals won't hear arguments in the photo red case the city has to take its case now to the Supreme Court. If that doesn't pan out for the city, Spokane may be faced with forgiving a lot of tickets or making some costly refunds.

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