Minneapolis OKs some green over red-light cameras

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 17, 2008 - 7:22 AM

The City Council approved a $2.6 million agreement offering refunds and expungements to vehicle owners over PhotoCop. About 15,000 drivers nabbed by the photo surveillance system are affected.

Drivers nabbed by the now-outlawed PhotoCop red-light enforcement program in Minneapolis will get most of their fines back and have their records cleansed under a settlement approved Friday by the Minneapolis City Council.

The proposed $2.6 million settlement would reimburse roughly 15,000 drivers who got tickets under the program, according to attorneys. They paid $142 each, but legal fees and other costs will be subtracted from that under the settlement.

But the city's sign-off on the settlement is contingent on the state and Hennepin County also agreeing to refund their splits of the fine money.

The conviction for running a red light will also be expunged from driving records, according to Marshall Tanick, lead attorney for drivers involved.

"That's very important to people," he said. The city will pay the state $10,000 toward the costs of expunging the offense from driver records. Tanick said those convicted also will get a letter they can present to their insurers.

The letters can be used to argue against cancellation or revocation of insurance or rate increases that may have resulted from the tickets.

The city's photo surveillance program used images of vehicles that ran red lights to cite the owner of the vehicle. The Minnesota Supreme Court last year backed lower courts, which had ruled that holding the owner of a vehicle responsible for the actions of whoever was driving it was unconstitutional.

The agreement was negotiated in a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of drivers who were ticketed and paid fines.

The state and city would each refund about $1.3 million, with the county returning the roughly $50,000 it received in associated fees, according to Tanick. The County Board is scheduled to discuss the proposal in a closed briefing on Tuesday. The state will refund license reinstatement fees for those who lost licenses because of the red light violation.

"The stop-on-red system was ill-advised to begin with and we're glad that after three years we're finally able to provide everyone with the relief their entitled to," Tanick said.

A Hennepin County district judge ruled in November in favor of returning fines to 147 people who asked for their cases to be reopened. Friday's settlement affects anyone who had been ticketed.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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