Oregon Legislature Expands Use of Red Light Cameras for Prosecutions

Source: Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

A bill that has passed the Oregon legislature and sits upon the governor’s desk would allow the police to significantly expand their use of red light cameras. Oregon police are currently restricted to using the cameras for traffic offenses. That was the deal between the camera advocates and privacy advocates when the cameras were installed.

It looks like Oregonians, or at least their elected representatives, are a lot less concerned about privacy now. The changes swept through both house with bipartisan majorities exceeding 70%.

The argument by law enforcement is that the cameras will be used to apprehend suspected murderers, kidnappers, robbers and those who commit other serious felonies.

“We’re only looking for the criminal activity of someone who just robbed a bank that’s gone through the system, a potential Amber Alert with a suspect and a victim in a car, a homicide – those types of things,” Geoff Spaulding, Beaverton’s chief of police, said.

That makes sense. Some thug who has just committed murder down the street and either runs or drives through red light cameras that could be instrumental in apprehending him.

Unfortunately, that is not how the bill reads. It states that red light camera photographs “may be submitted into evidence in a criminal trial, grand jury proceeding or other criminal proceeding for the purpose of proving or disproving a felony or a Class A misdemeanor.”

Class A misdemeanors are misdemeanors of a more serious nature, but many of them do not rise to being anywhere near the felonies that Spaulding and others are claiming the cameras will be used in prosecuting.  Here are a few of the misdemeanors where evidence from a red light camera could be used:

  • Abuse of a memorial of the dead
  • Patronizing a prostitute
  • Possession of a gambling device
  • Improper repair of a vehicle inflatable restraint system
  • Unauthorized use of a livestock animal
  • Failing to maintain a purchase record for cedar products when bought directly from any person who has harvested the cedar
  • Criminal trespass at a sporting event
  • Failure to perform the duties of a driver when property is damaged
  • Publicly displaying nudity or sex for advertising purposes
  • Unlawfully obtaining a dog or a cat

There are plenty of good reasons to use these cameras, like tracking down a murderer, but for someone who is illegally using nudity in an advertisement? Despite the assurances of law enforcement that the cameras will only be used for serious offenses, it is telling that far less serious crimes are allowed as well.

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