Class Fights Long Island Surcharges on Tickets


     MINEOLA, N.Y. (CN) — In a class action complaint, a driver claims Long Island’s Nassau County reaps millions of dollars from an illegal “driver responsibility fee” it tacks onto camera-issued red light fines.
     Mark Guthart claims the $15 to $45 “driver responsibility fee” on top of the $50 liability cap for a red light camera violation is “an unauthorized, unconstitutional attempt to expand red-light liability beyond the limits delineated by the state legislature.”
     He seeks disgorgement, restitution and damages for fraud, negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment.
     Lawsuits across the country have challenged — nearly always unsuccessfully — red-light camera fines. Guthart’s June 8 complaint in Nassau County Supreme Court is different in that it does not challenge the red light fine, but the tacked-on fee.
     He claims that New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, section 1111-b set a $50 cap on the violation, and that although Nassau County calls the surcharge a fee, it serves as “an automatic flat monetary penalty.”
     He seeks class certification, an injunction, damages — and the $30 he was charged in December 2015.
     Nassau County’s “driver responsibility fee” increased from $30 to $45 on Jan. 1 this year.
     Nassau County’s red light camera program, which began in March 2009, brought the county $36.8 million in revenue in 2013. The program is overseen by Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions.
     As of 2012, Nassau County receives 62 percent of the money collected by the red light program, and American Traffic Solutions gets 38 percent, according to the complaint.
     The co-defendant Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violation Agency says on its website that red light violations “cannot be pled to a lesser offense” and “red light camera violation fine cannot be reduced.” Payments made by phone through the third-party Violation Info charges a $6 per ticket transaction fee.
     The Nassau County’s Attorney’s Office declined to comment on pending litigation. Guthart is represented by David Raimando of Lake Grove, and Kevin Landau with Taus, Cebulash and Landau, in New York City

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