Beating a red light camera ticket is like winning the lottery. Generally, unless you can prove an expected mechanical failure, genuine and urgent emergency, stolen car or some other extraordinary defense, you’re pretty much sunk. A video of you committing the offense pretty much is all that is needed to prove the case against you. Or is it?
Ask Debbie Eisenstadt. I have never met or spoken with Debbie but, like 1,000s of New Yorkers, she received a red light camera ticket. Allegedly her car was traveling eastbound at the intersection of Manetto Hill and Plainview Roads on March 5, 2011. Debbie, however, refused to simply plead guilty and pay the nominal $50 fine and $30 administrative fee. Instead, she demanded a non-jury trial where she was found guilty. But Debbie was not done yet. She appealed the conviction to the Appellate Term, Second Department and won!!! So how did Debbie beat her ticket on appeal?
At the hearing, the People introduced a technician’s certificate as prima facie evidence of the alleged offense. The certificate was affirmed by the technician and stated that Debbie had not fully stopped at the subject red light. The Nassau County Traffic Violations & Parking Agency (Marks, J.) admitted the certificate even though Debbie had argued that it was not in the proper form. Specifically, she pointed out that it was not notarized, only “affirmed”.
On appeal, the Appellate Term agreed with Debbie. That higher court explained that, pursuant to 2106, only “an attorney, physician, osteopath or dentist authorized to practice in the State of New York and serve and file an affirmation” (i.e., un-notarized document) in place of an affidavit. Because the certificate in Debbie’s case was not sworn to or affirmed before a notary pubic or other authorized individual, the certificate was found to lack any probative value, and should not have been admitted into evidence. Without a certificate to support its case, the People had therefore failed to make out a legally sufficient case against Debbie.
Result: Judgment reversed and case dismissed. A link to the actual decision is below.
Congratulations Debbie on your perseverance and successful appeal!