If you received a red-light camera in Florida between 2008 and 2010, you may have your fine being refunded to you in the coming months.
The Florida Supreme Court is reviewing cities that installed red-light cameras prior to the 2010 passage of a bill authorizing red-light cameras statewide. The bill cleared the Legislature but not have been as substantial as the grounds for the fine currently administered. The bill was successful in creating a statewide system and fee of $158 per violation.
Several cities and counties across the Sunshine State installed cameras before they were approved by the Legislature, leading to a showdown at the Supreme Court.
On the way to the highest court in Florida, rulings have been mixed, creating uncertainty in how the Court will rule. One court stated cities did not have the authority to install the cameras without legislative approval. Another ruling stated the opposite, granting cities the right to install the cameras without requiring the Legislature's approval.
If the Supreme Court rules the cameras were unlawful, the refunds may not be immediate. For one, the case before the Justices was not a class action suit, meaning the lawyers involved would have to increase the plaintiffs in the case or file again in a lower court. An earlier attempt at a class action suit against the cities was dismissed in Orange County.
Another issue is where cities would find the millions of dollars in camera fines collected. Repayment would pull revenues away from already cash-strapped cities across the state. It is possible Tallahassee would loan cities the funds with a repayment schedule, but that would take years to approve with a divided Legislature.
The Florida Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling in 2013. If the cameras are deemed to have been placed illegally, efforts will begin to reclaim the money for those who paid. But that might take years.