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Red Light Cameras

As you may know, the STOP Ordinance here in Albuquerque declares the act of driving over the speed limit a nuisance. It allows the City of Albuquerque to camera record drivers, capture images of speeders and issue a fine for speeding. The ordinance holds the owner of the vehicle liable for the act of speeding (and of course a hefty fine) whether they are driving the vehicle or not.

A Brief Legislative History

At first, the ordinance was advertised as a safety mechanism that was not intended as a revenue-generator. Shortly after commencing the program, the ordinance began to generate much-needed revenue for the City. The City of Albuquerque contracted with an Arizona-based company (Redflex) and made them millions of dollars as well. The New Mexico State Legislature then passed a bill that would have required municipalities to share the revenues earned by the STOP program with the State. The Governor then, Bill Richardson, did not sign the bill into law, but asked the local municipalities to "take a look" at how high the fines were. Later, in 2008, "The Guv" went ahead and signed a bill that took some of the revenues from the cameras. The City of Albuquerque had also lowered its fines by about thirty percent (they went from over about $100.00 to $75).

Then, the program went in the red. At that point in time, the City waivered back and forth as to whether or not it would continue the program. It became too costly, which is obviously a consideration contrary to the selling point: "the program was not a revenue generator, but a safety issue." The ordinance is still in effect, bu the contract with the provider (Redflex) has expired.

The Constitutionality of the Ordinance

Pursuant to the New Mexico State Constitution, Art. X §6(D), and New Mexico State Statute §3-17-1, municipalities like the City of Albuquerque can only adopt ordinances or resolutions consistent with the laws of New Mexico. The state statute only allows the municipalities to define a nuisance on a person who "creates or allows a nuisance to exist." In turn, since the owner of the vehicle caught on camera is held liable no matter whether they created or allowed the driver of their vehicle to speed, the ordinance is clearly contrary to state law. Again, by law, the City should have to prove that the owner of the vehicle created or allowed the vehicle to be driven above the speed limit in order for the city to hold the owner of the vehicle liable for the fine.

The Ordinance's Lawfulness Challenged

A colleague of mine has challenged the constitutionality of the STOP Ordinance. He lost the administrative hearing, lost his appeal in State District Court, and lost his appeal to the New Mexico Court of Appeals. The case is now pending in the State of New Mexico's Supreme Court. It is styled Case No. 32,941.

I hope that the Supreme Court sees the ordinance as what it is: an unlawful hidden tax imposed on folks from Albuquerque and those who drive there. In the meantime, I recommend that you slow down out there!

  • We Prepare Every Case For Trial

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The Romero Law Firm, P.A.
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