If lawsuit doesn't stop red-light cameras, maybe legislation will

bsiceloff@newsobserver.comJune 23, 2012 

Brian CeccarellI

BRIAN CECCARELLI

Brian Ceccarelli and his lawyers advanced a big step toward victory over Cary and its red-light camera program this week when a Wake Superior Court judge certified their lawsuit as a class action, adding thousands of drivers as candidates for refunds of their $50 red-light-running tickets (see today's story with reader comments) if Cary eventually loses the case. The class action designation may give Cary a new incentive to settle out of court.

Meanwhile this week, the House of Representatives breathed life into legislation that would outlaw red-light cameras in the only four remaining cities that use them: Raleigh, Cary, Knightdale and Wilmington. The Senate approved it in April 2011, but the House shelved it.

The bill sponsor, Republican Sen. Don East of Pilot Mountain, is a former Winston-Salem police officer who argues that drivers should be able to cross-examine the officer to gives them a traffic ticket.

“You ought to be able to say, ‘Officer, are you right sure that light was red?’” East said last year during floor debate. His legislation would not merely bar towns from using red-light cameras -- it would make it a misdemeanor for anyone to use them. The House revived his bill this week and sent it to the Appropriations Committee. Ceccarelli's lawyer, Republican Paul Stam of Apex, serves as the House majority leader.

East's argument could carry new weight this year, as Cary deals with a separate problem involving a camera that cranked out 31 undeserved tickets at one intersection before the malfunction was discovered.

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