ORLANDO, Fla. - Thousands of people in Orange County have had their license suspended because they failed to pay a red-light ticket, and investigative reporter Daralene Jones discovered some drivers don’t even learn about the suspension until it’s too late.
The state suspended Jean Pierre’s license in May because he failed to pay a red-light ticket. Pierre told Jones he only found out he received a red-light ticket when he was notified that his license would be suspended because he hadn’t paid the citation. He immediately contacted an attorney.
Attorney Corey Cohen said he has a long list of other clients like Pierre.
9 Investigates requested records that show nearly 50,000 drivers statewide have had their license suspended in the last year for failure to pay. Nearly 8,000 are in central Florida.
“They're calling us after being stopped by a cop or getting a notice from Tallahassee,” said Cohen.
In Orange County, 9 Investigates was told the notices are mailed by a contractor hired by the camera vendor. That company relies on the address attached to vehicle registrations, not driver’s licenses, which might be part of the problem.
“You think that people would get their license suspended for some serious crime, not missing a red-light camera by 0.03 seconds,” said Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, who represents parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
Brandes has been raising concerns about flaws in the red-light camera system and the harsh penalties for years.
But a bill he sponsored to get rid of the cameras died in the transportation committee he chairs.
“The counties were against me. The cities were against me. But more importantly, the red-light camera vendors were against me,” said Brandes.
That leaves drivers stuck with a system that allows municipalities to contract work with a company that’s not accountable to taxpayers.
“They’re making more money in the state of Florida than any other state because of the laxed way this law was written,” according to Brandes.
It took a judge and the help of attorneys with Cohen’s firm to help sort out Pierre’s case. The judge has since temporarily re-instated Pierre’s license until there is proof that he got the original citation.
“It’s very frustration,” said Pierre.
Some municipalities, like Orlando, mail the red-light camera notices directly.