East Denver red light camera ticketing innocent drivers

Posted on: 11:39 am, September 20, 2011, by , updated on: 11:48am, February 24, 2012

DENVER — A photo red light camera at 36th and Quebec in Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood has many drivers seeing red with anger.

Thousands are getting tickets at that intersection for turning right on a red light, even though the Denver Police Department’s own video seems to suggest they didn’t break the law.

“Oh God, I was so angry,” said Andrew Haines, who has received 4 tickets for making a right turn on red on his way to work.

The intersection is equipped with video cameras that the Denver Police Department uses to verify the citations. But when Haines got a copy of his tickets in the mail, it appeared he didn’t do anything wrong.

The video shows Haines in his red Miata pulling up to intersection, stopping behind the stop bar, and then making the turn.

“It’s a right turn on red. I think as long as you’re coming to complete stop, you’re good to go,” he said.

FOX 31 Denver contacted criminal defense attorney and former police officer Gary Pirosko who, after watching the video, agreed.

“It didn’t appear to me that this person violated the law,” Pirosko told us.

And just in case you’re thinking Haines didn’t stop long enough, Pirosko says the law only requires a complete stop.

“It doesn’t say how long you have to stop. It just says you have to stop, which could be for a split second,” said Pirosko.

We pointed our cameras on that same intersection and watched as a car turning right on red drove through the intersection without stopping and without the camera flashing, while the car right behind it stopped and got the flash.

The camera seemed inconsistent at best.

“I feel like they’re fleecing the average guy,” Haines said.

The Denver Police Department, which oversees the Photo Red Light program, would not agree to an on-camera interview.

But after viewing the video, a Denver Police spokesperson told us off-camera that drivers who are being cited at 36th and Quebec are not stopping behind the stop bar.

He says they are either stopping on it, or in front of it.

But if you look at Haines’ video citation, it appears he is behind the stop bar. A still picture of the citation is even clearer.

“This system was set up for public safety and if they’re going to keep giving tickets like this, it has nothing to do with public safety,” Pirosko said.

The Denver Police department is supposed to sign-off on every ticket issued by photo red light cameras.

Pirosko believes that’s not happening.

“Whoever’s in charge, if this ticket went out, should have been called in by their supervisor and asked ‘Why did this ticket go out?”

Still, Pirosko says it is ultimately up to the public to put enough pressure on city to put a stop to unjust photo red light tickets.

He says the program generated $744,000 in revenue in 2010, so the city has no incentive to stop it.

But public pressure was enough to convince the city of Los Angeles to do away with its photo red light program earlier this year.

Haines’ took his red light tickets to court. The judge dismissed two of the citations and reduced the fine on the other two.

It cost him two hours of his day.