Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against 19 Washington Cities, Including Burien, Over Red Light Camera Fines

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On Tuesday (June 23rd) a class action lawsuit was filed in King County Superior Court  that alleges that 19 Washington cities, including Burien, are overcharging drivers who get tickets via red light cameras.

Attorneys for the eight plaintiffs are seeking class-action status over a 2005 law that says traffic-camera fines “shall not exceed the amount of the fine issued for other parking infractions within the jurisdiction,” according to the complaint.

“The intent of the Legislature was primarily safety, not raising of revenue,” said the complaint.

The suit was filed by attorneys representing four Seattle residents, inclduing two from Lynnwood, one from Lakewood and one from Puyallup. Their fines ranged from $64 to $124 per violation. According to court documents, one man, Seattle’s Mark Contratto, was fined $124 over two consecutive days for failing to come to a complete stop before turning right at a red stoplight.

The plaintiffs will ask a King County Judge to order a refund of the difference between $124 and the cost of an ordinary parking ticket.

As we’ve previously reported, Burien currently sends out a $101 fine for red light infractions, with five cameras operating at these three intersections:

  • 1st Avenue South at SW 148th Street
  • 1st Avenue South at SW 152nd Street
  • 1st Avenue South at SW 160th Street

The cameras operate 24 hours a day and capture still photos and video of every vehicle that runs a red light at the intersection. After being processed by manufacturer RedFlex, the videos are accessed by Burien police through a website, where they are analyzed by an officer who decides whether or not to send out a ticket.

As for expected revenue, the city is expecting at least $200,000 in revenue for 2009 and $250,000 in 2010; these estimates were based on what the revenue generated in other cities by similar red light enforcement programs.

The lawsuit has not yet been served on Burien, nor the other 18 cities named. Once these cities are served, each jurisdiction will have 20 days to respond.

Those wishing to join the suit can contact attorney Rob Williamson at [email protected] or 206-780-4447.

In addition to the City of Burien, defendants include the cities of:

  • Auburn
  • Bonney Lake
  • Bremerton
  • Federal Way
  • Fife
  • Issaquah
  • Lacey
  • Lake Forest Park
  • Lakewood
  • Lynnwood
  • Monroe
  • Moses Lake
  • Puyallup
  • Renton
  • SeaTac
  • Seattle
  • Spokane
  • Tacoma



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13 Responses to “Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against 19 Washington Cities, Including Burien, Over Red Light Camera Fines”
  1. Victoria Adams says:

    Glad you are keeping up on the red light cameras. I myself have slammed on the breaks because I am afraid of a ticket even though the light has just barely turned yellow at the line. Do you slam on the breaks or maybe you were a second to slow and get a ticket? HMMMMM… I do beleive there are too many people running the red light but I sure don’t like those cameras.

  2. Tai Oh says:

    Pure and simple these red light cameras is a revenue generator masquerading as safety device. The head of DOT said safety can be achieved by incrementaly increasing the time of the yellow light. I will jump for joy when these red light cameras are gone.

    Tai Oh


  3. CJ says:

    I would like to know how it is legal to receive a ticket when I am not even driving my car? Since when does the vehicle get a ticket for getting into an accident or the owner of the car gets a ticket for speeding when someone else is driving your car? This doesn’t seem possible????

  4. Maxine says:

    CJ, the legislature changed the law several years ago to allow the registered owner to be cited for the infraction re: red light camera violations no matter who is the driver. See this article If you disagree with that law, you might want to let your State Senator and State Representatives know your feelings.

    Quite honestly, I don’t understand the big fuss against red light cameras. I’ve been a driver for over 40 years and cannot recall the last time I ran a red light. It is easy enough to pay attention while driving and always be prepared to stop in time.

    Tai, you are correct to a point about the red light cameras generating revenue. They do initially, but assorted studied have shown that after a while drivers actually decide to drive more cautiously and safely at the lights with cameras and so the number of tickets issued over time drops dramatically.

  5. mike jepson says:

    You cannot even protest a ticket in court. It is all done online. This is turning out to be a money making venture. This has nothing to do with safety. Let’s stop exploitation. We are afraid to even go through those intersections. I drop my Costco membership. I’m very afraid to go to businesses where the cameras are stationed. This is very sad. Some of the businesses will also be hurt by this activity.

    • Lee Moyer says:

      I think these cameras are a great idea. Two of the big problems in heavy traffic are the driver who enters an intersection after the light turns red and the driver who enters an intersection he can’t clear. All you have to do not to get a ticket is not run red lights. I feel safer knowing some impatient hot dog won’t come barreling thru the intersection after the light change. If you are so afraid of them, perhaps you shoulc try driving legally.
      If they can make money and enforce the law, only lawbreakers will lose.
      The citation is more like a parking ticket. It doesn’t go on your driving record.

      • kkl says:

        This isn’t about barrel through a red light. Most of these tickets are for not stopping a full three seconds on a free right hand turn. Tell me when the last time you actually stopped a full three seconds. This is a cash grab from these cities and I will be avoiding making any purchases from businesses especially in Lynnwood in the future. My fiance and I and one of our guests all recieved tickets in Lynwood the week before the wedding….all for free right hand turns. I just received another ticket from going to the Dept of Licensing to renew my license. My husband was driving my car. Turns out we were going through a school zone at 1:18 with no children present at 29 miles per hour when the posted speed is 20mph…whether children are present or not….another cash grab! for $124.00 and I wasn’t even driving the car….but the ticket will go on my record.

    • TcB says:

      Mike Jepson
      You dropped your Costco membership because of Red light cameras. You are very afraid to go to a business where there is a Red light camera. I don’t have to say anything about your comment, just point at what you actually said.

  6. Dale says:

    There are always tradeoffs in the real world and where the are no cameras I attempt to minimize the chance of an accident but when I know there is a camera I try to avoid a ticket.

    Didn’t know what to do the other day when the light turned yellow just before I entered an intersection and a Great Big truck was on my tail. My Vigor has mighty fine brakes and I hoped the truck driver was watching the rear of my car and not hers. He stopped behind me this time but my poor car has been hit before when I stopped too fast.

    I wonder who keep records about the number of accidents before and after the cameras? If the cameras are causing accidents then they must be there to fund the city and/or the businesses that fix car bodies.

  7. TomatoHead says:

    Anybody out there EVER use a stopwatch and time these lights? 35MPH zone DOT requires a 3.5 second from Yellow to Red. Checked 3in my neighborhood, all 3.2 seconds.

  8. Tom says:

    Tacoma, for one does not even follow state law in prosecuting these “civil” cases.
    It matters not concerning your guilt, for you my friend are guilty ! “Those sensors are very accurate” is all you’ll hear in the way of evidence against you.
    How about buying your goods and services OUTSIDE the city limits of the 19 cities listed above. Eventually, they will ‘connect the dots’. How I hate that phrase.

  9. Elizabeth2 says:

    Maxine – I agree with your common sense. If you are not breaking the law, then this is a non issue. I have never run a red light, although I am guilty of not making a full three second stop. My husband was ticketed from that BEFORE these cameras and when he went to the judge, the answer was simple – you broke the law, pay the fine. Same whether you get caught by an officer or a camera.

    In a democracy, if you do not like the law, work to change it.

    Otherwise, for people who threaten to never go to Costco, or threaten to shop elsewhere other than the 19 cities who have camera – get a life, please! Spend your energy helping out your community rather than blathering on about trivial matters relating to your breaking the law.

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