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Unjust photo ticket more just than I thought -- sort of

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On December 4, I wrote a blog with the utilitarian headline "Injustice! I Get a Mail-In Ticket For Not Running a Red Light," in which I griped about receiving a photo-radar ticket even though I actually stopped at the intersection of 6th Avenue and Lincoln during a drive on an early November Sunday. (Abruptly and at the last minute, yes -- but I did stop.) Shortly thereafter, the post received a response from "Kory," who informed me in the sternest and most merciless manner possible that I hadn't been cited for running the light. Instead, I'd been flagged for going past the stop line and into the crosswalk, which the photo above shows that I did (along with the two cars next to me).

The detail of this comment suggested that Kory knew what she/he was talking about. So, last week, I phoned the Denver Police Department photo-enforcement unit -- and the officer with whom I spoke confirmed it.

Yes, this guy told me, the violation was for passing over the stop line, not running the light. The law is in place to protect people who might be trying to cross the street, he said, and even though no one was doing so at the time, that had no impact on the ticket. I had indeed done wrong.

This news added insult to illness. The day the blog posted, I walked from Westword's Broadway offices to the City & County Building -- in the snow, which soon led to a cold -- and requested a court date to fight what I thought was a ticket based on a technical flaw with the camera. Now, I knew that if I showed up on the appointed date (March 5, 2009), I'd wind up paying the fine plus court fees, in all likelihood.

Fortunately, the DPD rep told me that if I paid the fine online, the court date would be automatically canceled without me having to make a return visit. So I went to the website listed on the back of the ticket -- the same one that allowed me to see a video of the whole incident -- and punched in my credit-card information. Lickety split, I was $76.87 poorer. (The amount combined the original $75 penalty and a $1.87 "convenience fee.")

Had an actual human police officer seen me commit my sin, I suspect he would have simply laughed rather than giving me the same ticket in person. But the camera has no ability to weigh the circumstances, the time of day or other factors. So take my sad story as a warning. It may save you $76.87. -- Michael Roberts

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