Sugar Land chief tells lawmakers to allow red-light cameras

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Sugar Land Police Chief Doug Brinkley urged state lawmakers in Austin last week to vote down legislation that, if passed, would prohibit red-light cameras like those used at six Sugar Land intersections.

Brinkley testified in opposition to Senate Bill 87 and SB 88 during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Transportation on Wednesday.

“We saw a 58 percent reduction in accidents at the locations where we have the cameras,” Brinkley told committee members. “It is not a money generator.”

Both bills were filed by Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, who argued Wednesday that the use of automated camera systems to issue penalties, is a violation of due process.

“When a person appears in court for a ticket issued by an officer, that person is considered innocent by the court,” Hall said at the hearing. “The burden of proof is on the court and the process has many safeguards in place to ensure that constitutional rights are not violated. This is not so with unmanned automated traffic camera systems.”

During his testimony, Brinkley told the committee that few people who are issued citations after their cars are photographed running red lights show up to protest the penalties.

“If a person comes in and said, ‘it is not me operating the vehicle,’ we ask if the vehicle was stolen,” Brinkley said. “And if you lent the vehicle out, we transfer liability to that person.”

After his testimony, Hall said to Brinkley, “You do recognize that the process you just described is one that turns our judicial system upside down, where the person being accused has to prove their innocence rather than the government proving they’re guilty.”

“I can understand everyone having their personal opinions on how to best enforce it,” Brinkley said later. “The main point is, whether it’s enforced by an officer or a camera, the point is to make things safer for vehicular traffic.”

In addition to Brinkley, several other law enforcements officials from around Texas testified against the bills, as did some civil officials. Meanwhile, a number of people showed up to testify in support of Hall’s two bills.

In January, two Fort Bend County residents sued Sugar Land along with three city officials, alleging the automated cameras are unconstitutional. That case seeks class action status and is pending in the 434th District.

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