Paul Henry, a retired Florida Highway Patrol trooper, is filing a complaint with the Florida Attorney General office, claiming one of two possible crimes are being committed in Florida’s red light camera (RLC) program. The Department of Revenue reported the state received only about $51 million during 2012. According to Henry, this figure is impossible, claiming either that public officials are committing the offense of Grand Theft by stealing public funds, or public officials are committing the offense of Official Misconduct by falsifying records by inflating the number of violations issued for an official document.
Florida’s red light camera (RLC) program is purported to prevent intersection crashes, cautioning people to stop for red lights by ticketing violators. These RLC programs incidentally raise millions for the state and local communities in fines. As many feel these cameras are not preventing intersection crashes, some, like Henry, allege that the red light camera programs around the state are just money generating machines and not a public safety feature at all.
When someone runs a red light, the owner of the vehicle will be sent a notice of violation and a fine of $158 that they can either contest in court or simply pay, leaving points on their license that will cause their insurance rates to increase dramatically. Out of the $158 fine, $78 of each fine goes to the local community who sponsors the red light camera system, and the state receives $83. According to an annual analysis, the Division of Motor Vehicles reported nearly one million notices of violation for fiscal year 2012, which runs from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012, with about 985,000 being paid. According to Henry, if the numbers are actually what they are reported to be, the raised revenue would be over $81 million, which means that $30 million has simply disappeared.
Red light camera programs in Florida and elsewhere generates millions of dollars annually. When millions of dollars are at stake, the opportunity for corruption increases. As such, public scrutiny naturally increases, particularly over where the funds come from and where they go, ensuring that those who are not running red lights are not being improperly ticketed and that those that are properly ticketed for red lights are not paying to line a public official’s pocket book with now embezzled funds.
If the official misconduct in this case is substantiated, it is unacceptable. However, not every case of embezzlement, or theft or misuse of funds that one has control over, is true. Unfortunately for those who are falsely accused of embezzlement, the penalties can be very severe, costing both reputation and likelihood of being employed elsewhere where money transfer or control is involved, simply for being accused in that capacity.
Many times, with an embezzlement charge, the police will attempt to reach an admission from the embezzler, saying the prosecutor will be lenient; however, their real plan is to convict one of a crime that the prosecutor favors. The state will attempt to pressure one to come clean of the crime so the State will “cut you a deal.” Many times, under the stress of a guilty conscience or fear of a harsh prison sentence, that person will sometimes go right to the police station and confess to everything, willingly.
One in this situation should not give into police so willingly. Stress and pressure from police are only scare tactics. Remember, if the police and the State had enough to arrest and prosecute one for the crime, they would have already done so.
If one obtains an experienced Jacksonville theft crimes defense attorney, one will have a strong chance of obtaining a favorable outcome, and will have the best defenses to what one is accused of, helping one get through the legal system, possibly without any conviction whatsoever. One should not risk one’s chances on a judge’s good nature. One should obtain a sure help for the future.