Speed camera refunds considered in Montgomery County

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA9) -- In the wake of a WUSA9 investigation in Prince George's County, Montgomery County is now considering issuing refunds for tickets at speed cameras identified by our investigation as not being published prior to activation, as required by state law.

Prince George's County is voiding over $80,000 worth of tickets and writing $58,000 in refunds to 1,500 drivers busted by one speed camera, thanks to a WUSA9 investigation that pointed out the camera was not in compliance with Maryland law.

A prior WUSA9 investigation in November found similar camera problems in Montgomery County. But the reaction of county officials in Montgomery County was much different than Prince George's -- the officials contended that when a driver pays a $40 ticket from a speed camera, they are admitting that they were speeding. But now that refunds are no longer unprecedented, we're asking, will Montgomery County follow suit?

Maryland law requires that before a speed camera can start ticketing motorists, its location has to appear on the county's website and must be listed in a local newspaper. But we're repeatedly discovering cameras that were not properly publicized.

A camera snapped Suman Kumar's vehicle on West Old Baltimore Road twice in 2012, for $80 in total fines. After seeing the results of our Montgomery County investigation, Kumar thinks he deserves a refund.

In a September 3, 2013 interview, Montgomery County spokeswoman Lucille Baur acknowledged that the county had been operating cameras never printed in a newspaper. In August 2013 – during our investigation - the county tried to settle the issue by publishing a comprehensive list of locations – but that didn't settle anything for drivers like Kumar, who was ticketed in 2012.

Kumar says that he, like many other drivers, was unaware that the cameras were in place until the tickets appeared in the mail.

When the cameras snapped his car, Kumar says, he wasn't driving at all – a relative was. But speed camera tickets are issued to a vehicle's registered owner. When WUSA9 visited the site on West Old Baltimore Road last week, those cameras were gone.

"It was illegal and I definitely need my money back," Kumar says. "It's my tax-paid money."

Louis Wilen of the Maryland Drivers' Alliance, which looks out for the rights of motorists, says that Prince George's County's decision to issue refunds was more fair and honest than that of Montgomery County.

Since the Prince George's County Police announced their refunds -- more than $80,000 in voided fines -- we asked officials in Montgomery County if they'd reconsider their decision. They turned down our request for an interview, but we have received these emails from the Public Information Director:

  • January 23 – "We are reviewing the question"
  • January 24 – "No update"
  • January 28 – "Yes" (Response to the question, "Is the decision still pending?")
  • February 6 – "No decision as yet"
  • February 24 -- "No thanks. Have a good one." (Response to our invitation for an interview.)

So we're still waiting. Meanwhile, questions linger.

Up until August 14, 2013, our investigation found, Montgomery County hadn't published the following locations in any newspaper:

  • 8000 Midcounty Highway, Gaithersburg
  • 8100 Midcounty Highway, Gaithersburg
  • West Old Baltimore Road (eastbound), Boyds
  • West Old Baltimore Road (westbound), Boyds
  • 18500 block of Barnesville Road in Barnesville

Wilen, of the Maryland Drivers' Alliance, wonders, "If they've overlooked this one requirement to just advertise the location of the cameras, what else are they overlooking?"

We'll let you know when Montgomery County makes their decision on what we estimate could be more than $340,000 in speed camera refunds.


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