Millions of speeding tickets from automatic cameras are invalid, lawsuit claims

Tickets automatically issued by speed cameras are invalid because they failed to include a
Tickets automatically issued by speed cameras are invalid because they failed to include a “certificate charging liability” which is mandated by law, a recent lawsuit claims. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

A new lawsuit alleges that millions of tickets automatically issued by New York City speed cameras are invalid because of a technical error.

The summons notifications mailed to drivers fail to include what’s called a “certificate charging liability,” as required under state law, according to the complaint filed against the city Monday in the case of Abram Muladzhanov v. The City of New York.

Israel Klein, an associate at Imbesi Law P.C., the firm which brought the suit in Brooklyn federal court, believes the city hasn’t issued a certificate in any notices to vehicle owners since the first cameras began catching speeders in 2014.

“The certificate is a statement that a technician reviewed the images and finds that there are no problems,” Klein said. “I’ve never seen an example of it because the city has never provided one.”

Between 2014 and 2016, the city has issued more than 2.8 million summonses to speeders, collecting more than $122.6 million in fines from their cameras positioned in school zones.

The $50 summons issued to Muladzhanov was for allegedly traveling 36 mph in a 25 mph zone on Main Street and Queens Boulevard in Briarwood, Queens, according to the complaint. His mailed notice included camera photographs and the fine amount, but no certificate charging the liability, the complaint alleges.

A spokesman at the city’s Law Department said in an email that “these claims may have no merit. We’ll review the suit and respond accordingly.”

The city’s Department of Transportation pointed to comments the agency has made in the past defending its practice to outlets like the Staten Island Advance. The notice is legal and valid, because the certificate charging liability is available upon request, according to a DOT spokeswoman

“As DOT has stated previously, The Notice of Liability (NOL) is fully compliant with the law because it contains all of the required components, including the certificate charging the liability,” the spokeswoman said. “Though the technician certificate is not required in the [notice], it is available upon request and at the hearing.”

Last summer, Imbesi law brought a different lawsuit against the city over a similar technical error: about half of a million parking tickets were invalid, the firm alleged, because the Department of Finance had changed a parking ticket rule, but the old violation code had appeared on the tickets. The code on each ticket was off by one number.

The case is still pending, but in November the city acknowledged the error and said it would refund drivers about $26 million in parking tickets.