Statewide speedcam ticket review in Maryland

WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) -- Speed camera tickets across Maryland are under judicial review in response to a WUSA9 investigation.

The review centers on the instructions on the back of citations and owners' rights if they weren't driving during the infraction.

Some motorists argue the language on Maryland speedcam tickets is misleading and gives owners the wrong impression that they are required to turn someone into police to get out of the ticket.

MORE: Tell WUSA9 What is Driving You Crazy About Speed Camera/Red Light Camera Tickets

Unlike parking tickets, the Maryland's speedcam law gives the ticketed owner an out if they can prove they weren't behind the wheel.

Maryland statute specifically cites as a defense "evidence that the person named in the citation was not operating the vehicle at the time of the violation."

It doesn't cite any requirement that the owner identify the actual driver and that's not explained on the ticket.

Instead, printed on the back of every Maryland speed camera ticket is a heading of "transfer of liability."

The ticket instructs registered owners who weren't driving that they may "choose to identify the person" who was behind the wheel.

Our investigation found the "transfer of liability" directive printed on all Maryland tickets is not part of Maryland's automated traffic enforcement statute.

Paul Layer, an attorney who lives in Damascus, Maryland, proved this point to a judge when he requested a hearing on two tickets he received on the same day in January.

Layer was in Texas on a business trip on that January day, and he could prove it with copies of his travel itinerary and hotel receipts.

He pleaded not guilty in front of Maryland District Court Judge Karla Smith, pointing out to her that, "in the absence of any proof by the county that I was the driver, it's my position that my affidavit and my sworn testimony here today that I was not the driver should be sufficient to meet the preponderance of evidence standard."

The photos on his citation were of his license plate and his vehicle, he said, but the police had no evidence to present on who was behind the wheel.

The language on the reverse side of Maryland citations is dictated by the Maryland courts.

Investigative Reporter Russ Ptacek alerted the Maryland Judiciary to a possible conflict between the ticket instructions and the Maryland state statute governing automated traffic enforcement.

Initially, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Judiciary defended the wording, pointing out that the citations merely say you may "choose to identify the person" who was driving. After follow-up calls and emails from WUSA9, though, it appears the Judiciary is willing to spend more time examining the difference between the citation and the statute instructions.

In a follow-up e-mail, the spokeswoman said "While the Judiciary believes the citation's language is fair and balanced, in an attempt to be informative to motorists, an internal committee is currently reviewing the citation's language for clarity."

For now, Maryland tickets remain the same, statewide.


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