Beaufort News

Ridgeland argues drivers don't have right to sue over traffic cameras

Attorneys for Ridgeland and iTraffic, the company that helped the town launch its traffic camera system on Interstate 95, both have asked a federal judge to dismiss a class-action lawsuit filed against them.

Ridgeland's lawyer Timothy Domin of Charleston this week challenged the suit's accusation that using "unauthorized mail service" to deliver tickets to violators -- many of whom live outside Ridgeland's jurisdiction -- amounts to an illegal arrest.

Domin argued that issuing the tickets is not an arrest, as defined by the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unlawful searches and seizures.

"While a custodial arrest without probable cause can constitute a deprivation of federally protected rights ... the (lawsuit) accurately notes that the town of Ridgeland does not stop or detain motorists for the purposes of handing them a ticket," Domin wrote in his motion to dismiss filed Monday. "Plaintiffs were never detained by police, not even temporarily."

The class-action suit, filed Dec. 20 by two drivers from Florida and one from South Carolina, alleges various aspects of Ridgeland's use of automated cameras to ticket speeders on its stretch of I-95 are unconstitutional. Columbia attorney Pete Strom filed the suit on behalf of the three drivers and "several thousand" others who have been mailed tickets since the system was deployed in August.

In a separate response filed last week, iTraffic attorney Morgan Templeton of Charleston requested the suit be dismissed because the plaintiffs paid their traffic fines. By doing that, they admitted guilt and lost their right to sue, Templeton argued.

Domin said paying the fine prevents the drivers from complaining about how they were ticketed.

"Plaintiffs mailing a fine and forfeiting bond constitutes a general appearance and precludes them from asserting some defect in the service of process," Domin wrote. "Plaintiffs had available no less rights than those persons who are pulled over by police and handed a ticket. Plaintiffs were not deprived of due process, they simply failed to avail themselves of that process."

U.S. District Judge Sol Blatt has yet to rule on either motion, according to court records.

The lawsuit asks that the town refund all fines and that it stop issuing tickets using the camera system.

Attempts Wednesday to reach Strom were unsuccessful.