Former Judge Challenges Constitutionality Of Red-Light Cameras

Samuel Levine Says Technology Is Trumping Civil Rights

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.

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  • Cheated

    I received a red light violation and the video show me stopped at the red light completely and another care of another make (though similar color and shape) passing the red light. They phtographed my license plate instead of the violator and sent me a the ticket. It is an easy ticket to contest, but to do so requires a day off to contest a $50 fine. Principle vs losing a day of income over $50….day of income wins! Red light injustice prevails due to poor outsourcing without convenient recourse and review. Called the help line and they said no option but to show up even if the error is obvious!!!!!

  • Dan

    5th amendment to the constituion: “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”

    That $50 falls under PROPERTY. The right to due process applies.

  • Mark

    Here they do cost a point and they f unconstitutional 6th amendment and 5th all illegal and no mobo jumbo is going to change the fact that the framers of our county new what they were doing!

  • SuperMike (to David)

    all evidence including photos and videos have to have proper foundation, if they do not, you can challenge that and make the evidence inadmissable. if the only evidence is a photo and it is thrown out, then you have no case.

    and no you can not cross examine a photo or a camera, only the technician who installed it, who maintains it, who checks that it is working properly, and who reviews the evidence, including chain of custody. nowadyas, any photographic evidence and video evidence should not be the only evidence used to convict anyone, because computer generated images are so mainstream there is no way to tell a real photo from a fake one.

    you will need an independent witness, such as a law enforcement official, to testify to the legitimacy of the photo or video, and he or she will also need to have sufficient education and traiining in photographic cameras and electronics to testify and lay proper foundation for that evidence.

    Summary: the Judge is correct. it is unconstitutional, but until enough people complain, they will continue to take money away from fools.

    A private company like Redflex in Arizona has no legal right or jurisdiction to issue tickets. Only a public law enforcement entity can issue tickets, and only a U.S. State Courthouse can summon you to pay or appear in court.

    So ignore anything from a private company you receive in the mail. It is bogus.

  • Bo

    How fast we forget that for a crime to exist there must be an injured party or damaged property. You’re talking about a corporate system set up to make money. Police spend most of their time pulling over “drivers” for “infractions” of “traffic code.”

    Remember the days when the sheriff sat in his office waiting for something to do? Someone witnessed a crime and they called on the sheriff to organize a posse to bring in the criminal. He didn’t hire officers to hide in bushes waiting for someone to trap which radar for going 5 mph over a speed limit posted on a metal sign.

    Go to Dunn & Bradstreet and you’ll find your local police and court are listed as they are all corporations focused on the bottom line. Where is the evidence of a crime? While you’re at it, anyone who is “practicing law” research the corporate connections all the way back to England for your “bar card. BAR stands for: British Accredited Registry

  • alvin

    ““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.” I wonder how many people got of free because of these judge.

  • rwarens

    Sounds to me like you need to teach your wife how to drive

  • Gor Bismori

    I agree, the law is unconstitutional. Being able to “contest” the camera’s finding won’t make it legal because one really can’t contest the findings of an inanimate object. Under the circumstances, the judge’s wife had a reasonable right to drive through the red light because of an emergency. The “emergency” won’t register in the camera’s lenses. The camera’s finding is a wholesale guilt blanket.

  • juki pkb

    by using DSLR ???

  • haha626s

    isn’t that funny the jude only seems to feel this way only after he’s no longer there on the bench and can only blow puffs on what’s not fair or legal. These tricks of law had been and will always be in place dont get fussy now that the misses got tagged or is because has been tagged and she thinks you can throw your weight around to clean it up has this now become an issue

  • frank perr

    I beat a red light ticket in queens, the yellow was only 3 seconds long on queens blvd. I told the judge that in westchester the yellow was 6 sec. long in a 35mph zone. does queens have better stopping car your honor.
    he dismissed it. that is the reason there’s so many intersection crashes.
    there’s not enough time to go across queens blvd. with a yellow light on.
    it truns red before you get to other side so you get hit anyway.
    each town sets the yellows,there are no rules to how fast needs this distance

  • TL

    Yes there is a lot you can do it about it. Move out of the city and that’s a bigger lost of revenue for the city. Vote for canidates that will do something about it. Write letters to politicians. Challenge every tickets you receive.

  • Al None

    You may want us to remove our eyes on you but we will not. You are sheep and need to be herded. We will do that with or without your permission. We will remove all your rights until you have none. Don’t think a revolt will fix things. We have put Laws into place to protect us immediately if such an attempt is made. This is about Control. This is about Power. You will never know who yanks your chain but we do. Good day.

    Rulers of this World

  • haha626s

    yes the city wants your money and there nothing you can do to stop it.

  • haha626s

    yes the city wants your money and there nothing do to stop it.

  • George Myers

    In my experience in the Bronx, and the one on Lincoln Ave. was malfunctioning, too quick, they agreed, are in some cases in the wrong place, not a major traffic intersection, one side-street and a former horse-farm, breaks up traffic off the major highways nearby, seems there to collect revenue rather than protect an intersection and high pedestrian crossing, one of the first in the Bronx I think.

  • fxrs

    How does the camera know who is driving the car?

    • poppy chulo

      ah good question. this is the heart of the matter……..that’s why there are no points on your liciense……….the ticket goes to the registered owner of the vehicle, not the driver……they can’t prove who was driving the car by using a red light camera…….it’s just an old fashon shakedown for money………it;s a money maker thats all……..good question, thank you

  • Frank

    I love it when people claim the government is being intrusive and their rights are being violated when they are caught in wrongdoings but say nothing when it assists in convenience,like the EZ pass system. If the government really wanted to make money, it would track the speeds of drivers that used the system. Everybody would get tickets!

  • James Bond

    Great for the Judge, I hope he wins, all these municipalities and towns are not
    concerned about safety, all they want is to suck more and more money out off your

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  • TL

    I slam my brakes now at every yellow light. I am hoping to sue the town/government entity when I get rear ended for such practice being forced upon on me. Thank you for making it more dangerous to drive and increase your revenue.

    • Frank

      You’re joking,right?

  • dudehere

    Its actually more dangerous cause know u will have idiots slamming on there brakes or speedin even faster to beat the yellow light,I got a great idea,just break them or find a way to hack into the system,or u can use a long pole and knock the camera so its pointing upwards,very easy to do,

  • fn marino

    The red light camera is used only for the town or city to make money nothing else
    It has not lowered the number of accidents or made drivers drive slower.
    It just makes money for the municipality

    • Paul


      Do you have access to real numbers (re: accidents and drivers’ behavior) or is this merely your opinion?

      If you and I were in charge of reducing faulty driving in today’s world and this technology were available, wouldn’t common sense have us employing it?

      On a totally different segment of your answer – “It just makes money for the municipality.” Do you know of many municipalities that have cash to burn? Maybe that extra $ could contribute to a park being kept open , an after school program that could keep kids out of troube, a library kept open for longer hours. Gee – use one’s imagination. There are so many positive things that could be done if the coffers were deeper. Perhaps something to think about!

  • Lynne

    I know the cameras at the corner by my house is working! A LOT LESS ACCIDENTS!! I’ve heard horrible impacts and ambulances for years!! Since the cameras went in people actually stop!

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  • Rob In Brooklyn

    Paul, the traffic light can and has been set to have shorter periods of green or yellow for a span of time.

    There is also intent, a cop can discern if someone missed it by a second with no intent to run it versus someone speeding up after it went red and intentionally blew through it.

    In fact, if you ever watch them, they are triggered to get people who miss it by a second. I have watched the one in my neighborhood have a vehicle drive through it after stopping and waiting a second and just driving through intentionally to save time.

    It is the mechanism of the triggering device.

    • Paul


      Seems like we can find a complication or justification in everything. In my post I said I did not have first hand knowlege of how the camera works. You seem to, and some of the things you’ve mentioned seem unfair to the motorist if indeed true. At the same time, some things are just totally unrealistic. 1.) Although not suggested – In the first extreme, we cannot eliminate all traffic lights.Could you imagine a driving world where you had to slow up at every intersection or risk an accident or worse. 2.) second extreme – man every light with a cop. Ok, we know that that would be hardly cost effective much less possible. 3.) third example which I would hope can take us out of the extreme. Realize that many people run red lights and cause accidents and deaths. Now I’m sure that the resultant tickets do pad the coffers of struggling municipalities and this would be the prime focus of many. Perhaps, as you say, they are not set up 100% correctly. But let’s also admit that people who traditionally run red lights might slow down and stop if they think they are going to get a ticket. This is hardly a bad thing for you and I who hopefully drive with a mature attitude.

  • Rob In Brooklyn

    Another two problems:

    1) You get the notice of violation weeks later. An ordinary summons you get after the offense occurred which would enable you to time and video the light and otherwise prepare a defense.

    2) Some companies get a percentage of the fine, or at least sell more units based on expected revenue. A private company has incentive for people to violate. The government in theory at least wants people just to comply with the law.

    I am all for traffic enforcement. However, put it in the hands of a screened, trained and supervised LEO.

  • Paul

    There is a reason why lie detector results are not admissable in court. I’ve never read the specific reasons, but common sense suggests that one of those reasons might be that the lie detector is an inticate machine, and as such, subject to malfunction. I can’t relate this logic to the camera in the light. How would the camera malfunction. Without knowing the inticacies of how the camera works, I suppose it could fail somehow to take a picture. I do not see how the camera could take a picture of a car going through a light or speeding through a light if it never happened. Photoshop? Come on!

    • Bill4961

      Lie detector tests are admissable in federal courts. Just saying.

  • Ashmead

    I really love the logic of some of you people. If, on one of the occasions the judges wifw had killed one of your children on one of the occasions she ran the red light, you would have been screaming for the ‘government’ to do something about those who run red lights. You cannot have it both ways folks. Make up your mind.

  • Ben

    I guess this lawyer knows the law, what’s he going to say when his wife kills someone going through the light? Is she going to say the video of his wife running the light into the side of another car is not admissable. I think the other family and the insurance company will want some blood from him. Why can’t people follow the laws and drive safely and not try to figure out how to break the laws. If she got pulled over by a cop it would be a couple of hunderd bucks and points on her lecense. This way its $50 bucks and no points and a lesson learned.

  • CJ NYC

    Good for the judge. This is about ‘revenue’ nothing more. Just don’t be in the intersection when the light turns yellow. I always understood that going through yellow was not breaking the law, I guess now it is. The county/state needs your money, legal or not.

  • Corey

    Good for you judge!! Government, Big Brother, is more and more present in our lives. Thank God someone has the ability and the will to challenge that at least in one area.

  • dave

    He did not say the photo is accusing him of a crime, but since the photo is the only witness to the alleged violation he would like to cross examine their witness, and you can’t cross examine a photo.

  • steve

    I back the judge on this…..can’t see answering to a machine.

  • Tyler Donovan


    Unless you are in the legal field, you should not open your mouth. What he is talking about is a rule that arose out of a case called “Crawford” and it deals with the right to confront (i.e. cross examine) your accuser in court. Typically this type of evidence is inadmissible. For example, if instead of red light cameras they used you to sit up on top of the traffic light poles and decide who ran a red light, and then issued tickets to those people, then those people wanted to challenge the basis for the ticket, they should have a right to cross examine you. Look it up.

  • David

    The camera is not accusing you of a crime doofus, it’s the municipality! The camera is merely providing evidence that you committed the crime.
    Are all New Yorkers this dumb?

    • Keith Grant

      Most of them are…..

    • Anna

      Keith Grant and Davids remarks are rude and out of line for calling New Yorkers dumb. In my opinion, one is not smart to allow Big Brother to control your life. It’s not smart to welcome Facism into your life. Futhremore, there are probably more smart New Yorkers than people in many other places.

    • poppy chulo

      dufus, the camera does not know who was driving the car. the ticket goes to the registered owner………… no matter who was driving…….DUH

    • poppy chullo

      david, you sound ignorant, the camera doesnt know who went through the red light.. the tickrt is issued to the registered owner of the vehicle, not the driver……….the camera can’t determine who the driver was……its an old fashon shake down…..pure and simple



  • lola

    Pack back time your Honor!!

    • Fritz

      I love these guys who tell you you can’t discuss any law because you don’t have a sheepskin from a law school. I had a guy tell me that once, I asked him if he turned on the bathroom light when he got up at night to urinate. It turns out that this lawyer had no degree of any kind in electrical engineering. I mean he didn’t just talk about electricity, he actively utilized it w/o a sheepskin! By his logic, he could never flush the toilet because he wasn’t a plumber either.

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