Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Derwood engineer fights speeding ticket, but court upholds guilty decision

Only three motorists have appealed tickets, court says

E-mail this article \ Print this article

The speed ticketing system maintains a flawless record.

Although tens of thousands of citations have been issued by the Montgomery County automated speed camera system since its inception a little over a year ago, only three motorists have gone through the time, trouble and expense to appeal their tickets in court, said Payman Tehrani, law clerk for Circuit Court Judge Ann S. Harrington.

The most recent is Vincent H. Berg of Beltsville, who appealed his case to Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville on July 1 and asked Harrington to overturn the guilty verdict handed down by the District Court in April.

Harrington upheld the lower court’s verdict, but did return all the fees and fines Berg had paid, which totaled $117.50.

‘‘We gave him his money because we were impressed by his argument, not because it had any merit,” Tehrani said.

Berg, who operates an engineering practice in Derwood, said he was upset by the judge’s decision.

‘‘In 40 some years of driving I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket,” he said. ‘‘Now this goes on my record.”

Berg’s 22-year-old daughter was driving his car when it was caught by a speed camera on Powder Mill Road in the Hillandale area of Silver Spring on Feb. 14.

She was clocked traveling 46 mph in a 35 mph zone, he said. The speed cameras are set to go off at 11 mph over the limit.

Because the law says citations are issued to the owner of the vehicle, not the driver at the time of the citation, Berg was responsible for paying.

A licensed professional engineer and a former traffic engineer for Montgomery County, Berg detailed his case in seven pages of evidence and quotations of the law that he feels throws into question the legality of the entire speed camera system.

‘‘All the tickets issued by speed cameras are illegal,” Berg said.

He referenced Maryland House Bill 443, which made speed cameras legal in Montgomery County. Berg said several requirements of the law were not followed, therefore invalidating every ticket the cameras issue.

‘‘A speed study is required by the law to determine whether a speed camera is necessary,” Berg said.

The most recent speed study for Powder Mill Road, where his citation was issued, was done in 1982, he said.

Seth Zucker, spokesman for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, said he was surprised that someone had appealed a speed camera ticket.

‘‘The judge upheld the guilty ruling,” he said. ‘‘I mean, it’s just a speeding ticket.”

Tickets issued by the camera system do not count as moving violations since live officers are not clocking the drivers.

Berg said he would fight any other tickets that come his way and anyone else’s ticket, for that matter.

‘‘I’m not against the cameras, I’m against the county abusing the law,” he said.