Beaufort News

Judge dismisses traffic camera lawsuit

A federal judge has ended the nearly yearlong legal battle over Ridgeland's speed cameras on Interstate 95 by dismissing remaining parts of a lawsuit brought by several ticketed drivers.

During a hearing last week, District Judge Sol Blatt of Charleston granted a motion to dismiss the class-action suit against Ridgeland and iTraffic, the company that helped deploy the cameras in August 2010, according to court records. The lawsuit was filed in December by attorney Pete Strom of Columbia.

Attorneys for Ridgeland and iTraffic had requested in June that Blatt rule in their favor after speeding tickets against the three drivers listed as plaintiffs were dismissed.

The dismissals followed passage of a state law that led to the end of the camera enforcement. The law bans speeding tickets based on photographic evidence and requires officers to hand-deliver tickets to accused speeders.

Court records show the town dismissed all speeding tickets written using the cameras on June 20.

A lawyer for Ridgeland argued that the town's decision to dismiss the tickets put the motorists in the same legal category as several other plaintiffs Blatt dismissed from the lawsuit in May because they had already paid their tickets or had their tickets dismissed, according to court records.

Bill Danzell, iTraffic's chairman, said the ruling could prove to be an important legal precedent for automated traffic enforcement in South Carolina.

The ruling "provides case law for South Carolinian law enforcement agencies to work with private sector companies to (help) supplement their limited resources for public safety improvements," Danzell said in an e-mail.

Attempts to reach Strom and Ridgeland Mayor Gary Hodges were unsuccessful.

The suit dismissal draws to a close a legal and legislative battle that began in August 2010 when Ridgeland partnered with iTraffic to begin using the cameras on a stretch of I-95 soon after state lawmakers passed a law aimed at limiting the use of such cameras to emergencies.

Ridgeland officials claimed the law applied only to the use of unmanned cameras -- their cameras were attended remotely by a police officer in a nearby RV.

State lawmakers responded by passing the stricter bill, which also created a 13-member commission tasked with studying the ethical, legal and policy issues traffic cameras create.

The panel must report its findings to the legislature by Nov. 1.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.

Related content:

Attorneys again ask judge to dismiss traffic camera lawsuit, Aug. 22, 2011

Judge dismisses part of lawsuit against Ridgeland's traffic cameras, May 2, 2011

Ridgeland traffic camera suit contends iTrafffic has too much influence over police operations, April 15, 2011

Ridgeland faces federal class-action lawsuit over traffic cameras, Dec. 23, 2010

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