Florida justices weigh red-light camera fees

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Florida Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical Tuesday of a potential class-action lawsuit challenging credit-card fees that a company collects from motorists who get caught on camera running red lights.

Florida Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical Tuesday of a potential class-action lawsuit challenging credit-card fees that a company collects from motorists who get caught on camera running red lights.

TALLAHASSEE – Florida Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical Tuesday of a potential class-action lawsuit challenging credit-card fees that a company collects from motorists who get caught on camera running red lights.

The court heard arguments in a lawsuit filed by motorist Steven Pincus against American Traffic Solutions, Inc. after Pincus was nabbed running a red light in 2018 in North Miami Beach.

American Traffic Solutions had a contract to operate North Miami Beach’s red-light camera program. Pincus contends in the lawsuit that American Traffic Solutions collected an improper $7.90 fee when he used a credit card to pay a $158 traffic fine,

But some justices pointed Tuesday to Pincus’ decision to pay the fine by credit card, as he could have avoided the extra $7.90 fee by paying with a check or money order.

“What you are complaining about is the $7.90 payment, and that is completely voluntary,” Justice Alan Lawson said to Pincus’ attorney, Bret Lusskin. “You could avoid it by paying a different way.”

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Similarly, Chief Justice Charles Canady said a key factor “is that the choice to make an electronic payment is entirely voluntary.”

“It seems to me that this idea that is at the core of your case is that people were forced,” Canady said. “You say they were shaken down, they were robbed.”

But Lusskin argued, in part, that the additional fee was not allowed by state laws aimed at having uniform traffic rules. Also, he said American Traffic Solutions, a major player in the red-light camera industry, can’t require motorists to pay additional fees and that it is an “illusion that this is voluntary.”

“There is $7.90 that is in ATS’ (the company’s) hands that should be in Mr. Pincus’ hands,” Lusskin said. “It was unlawful for them to impose any additional fee, fine, surcharge or costs,

and it’s illegal to collect a commission.”

Red-light cameras in Florida have long been controversial and have spawned a variety of legal challenges. Also, the Legislature has repeatedly considered repealing a law that allows local governments to use red-light cameras, though such a repeal has not passed.

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Pincus filed the lawsuit in 2018 in federal court in South Florida, but U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks sided with American Traffic Solutions in 2019 and dismissed the case. Pincus challenged the decision at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A panel of the appeals court in February asked the Florida Supreme Court to help resolve questions about interpretations of state law in the case, a process known as certifying questions to the state court. That led to Tuesday’s hearing.

“So, the statutory issues raised by this case — which will determine whether a vendor may add a surcharge to red light camera penalties in exchange for permitting individuals to pay their penalties by credit card — may affect millions of Floridians and dozens of Florida’s municipal traffic enforcement regimes,” the February decision by the appeals court said. “Resolution of the common law issues may also reverberate throughout Florida, affecting Florida’s unjust enrichment law across diverse contexts. Principles of federalism and comity counsel us not to attempt to divine the answers to these challenging and important questions of Florida statutory and common law.”

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It is unclear when the Supreme Court will issue an opinion in the case, a process that typically takes months.

Like the justices, Joseph Lang, an attorney for American Traffic Solutions, pointed to Pincus’ decision to pay by credit card instead of using another method.

“While he was compelled to pay the violation, he was certainly not compelled in any way to choose to pay with a credit card,” Lang said. “He could have paid with a money order or a check and not incurred the fee.”

Google Nest just launched its new indoor security camera and floodlight cam

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Google

Google Nest’s latest cameras – the $100 Nest Cam (wired) and the $280 Nest Cam with Floodlight – are on sale now.

Both cameras were announced in August, alongside the now-released Nest Cam (battery) and Nest Doorbell (battery), to fill out the smart home developer’s most recent line of security devices.

Google’s Nest Cam (wired) comes in four colors – one of which includes a wooden base – and requires the use of a power cord. It’s Nest’s cheapest camera yet at $100 and it’s clearly designed for indoor use and display. Like all Nest Cams, the new indoor camera includes software features like object identification, activity zones and Google Home app viewing and support. Here’s what we know about the wired model so far:

Four colors: snow, sand, linen and fog

Night vision

HDR video

1080p at 30fps

135° diagonal field of view

6x digital zoom

16:9 aspect ratio

Google

The Nest Cam with Floodlight is Google’s first floodlight cam. It’s also the most expensive product in this new suite of cameras at $280. This model is wired, unlike the outdoor-friendly $180 Nest Cam (battery) released in September and it includes two 2400-lumen lights. Otherwise, the Nest Cam with Floodlight shares specifications with the Nest Cam (battery), which we rated positively, despite critiquing the price point compared to the competition, like the Arlo Pro 4.

“The Nest Cam does everything I’d expect it to,” said Molly Price in her Nest Cam (battery) review. “It works seamlessly with the Google Home app and Nest Aware offers several nice feature upgrades. Still, it’s a hard sell for me at $180 unless you’re really invested in having Nest products in your home.”

We will review both the Nest Cam (wired) and Nest Cam with Floodlight in the coming days.

Discovery of hidden camera leads to rape, sex charges for Berks County doctor

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READING, Pennsylvania (WPVI) – A Berks County doctor is facing rape and other sex charges, and authorities say it began with the discovery of a small camera by a teenage boy.Dr. Justin Rutherford was arrested by authorities in Virginia last weekend where he is awaiting extradition back to Pennsylvania.Authorities said the investigation into Rutherford began this past summer when a friend of one of the suspect’s children was staying over at the Rutherford family home in Amity Township.Berks County District Attorney John Adams said that friend, a teenager, noticed something strange in the bathroom.“While there, he was utilizing the shower in the second-floor bathroom, and he saw what he thought could be a camera,” Adam said.The teenager took the device after determining it was a camera and later gave it to his mother, who gave it to the authorities.Detectives were able to recover more than 2,800 videos and 1,400 photos of family guests, including children, using the toilet or taking a shower.Adams said the ensuing interview with Rutherford went as expected.“He denied the existence of the camera, and then he did leave the country during the pendency of the investigation,” Adam said.He said the investigation later determined that Rutherford allegedly sexually abused at least two teenage boys.Action News reached out to the suspect’s former employer, Tower Health, which sent a statement reading, in part, “Justin Rutherford’s employment by Tower Health and his membership on the Tower Health medical staff has been terminated.“Authorities said Rutherford fled the country and spent the next few months in Europe. He flew back to Dulles International Airport in Virginia this past Saturday where he was quickly arrested.