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Traffic photo enforcement unconstitutional | Letter
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This is a response to the Federal Way Forum article in your July 4 edition regarding the city's traffic cameras. The article was titled "Benefits of Federal Way's traffic photo enforcement," written by Police Chief Andy Hwang.
The writer makes some great points but he is missing one very important point: Is the law constitutional? In my opinion, traffic photo enforcement is unconstitutional based on my interpretation of the Fifth, Sixth and 14th amendments.
The Fifth Amendment states you do not have to be a witness against yourself, hence the phrase "I plead the Fifth." The camera can only take a picture of the back of the car and the back of the driver's head. The camera and city have no idea who is driving the car, only that this vehicle ran the light and was registered to a person. If the judge asks you who was driving the car, you cannot commit perjury but you are also innocent until proven guilty. By pleading the Fifth, all you are saying to the court is that it is the city's responsibility to prove who was driving the car. The only way to prove that is to have law enforcement stop the car after the infraction.
The Sixth amendment to the Constitution says we, as citizens, have the right to face our accuser. The accuser in this case is a camera. The individual who looks at the picture cannot tell by the photo who is driving the car, so they cannot be a credible witness.
The 14th Amendment basically protects the individual against any state or city from breaking the Constitution. Many scholars call this our second bill of rights.
A few years ago, my wife and I received a camera-enforced traffic violation on our car. Neither one of us were driving the car at that time. I took the citation to court. The judge asked if I was the driver and I said no.
The second question was if I knew who the driver was and I said yes. If the judge was going to ask who was the driver I was going to plead the Fifth based on my constitutional rights. But the judge did not ask the question; she dismissed the citation. This proved to me that the courts do not believe the enforcement cameras are constitutional, unless the picture taken can prove who the driver was.
If our only goal as a society was protection first, Constitution second, then what is the use of having a court or Constitution? Arguments for and against certain laws are great and need to be continued. But ultimately, a decision needs to be made based on the Constitution. My belief is courts should rule against traffic photo enforcement.
Walter Kostecka, Federal Way