By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Then bodybuilder Masone finally forced a judge to do something. The Montreal native's tangle with justice began when he drove his white Dodge Durango through the intersection of the William Lehman Causeway and East Country Club Drive in Aventura on January 1 and 2, 2009. A week later, he received invoices from the city's Intersection Safety Camera Program, informing him that he owed $125 and $250, respectively, for running red lights each time. According to Masone, the light was yellow when he was in the intersection.
Determined to fight, Masone enticed the pro bono efforts of fellow gym rat Bret Lusskin, a flamboyant attorney better-known in the traffic litigation circuit and on low-budget TV commercials as "The Ticket Cricket." Labeling the tickets as code infractions "was completely illegal, and the cities knew it," Lusskin says. "They were simply extorting millions of dollars from drivers."
In February 2010, Lusskin took Masone's tickets to Miami-Dade Circuit Court, where Judge Jerald Bagley stunningly declared the camera tickets were invalid. He reasoned that Florida law stipulated that "tickets should be issued by a law enforcement officer who has observed" the infraction in person.
Aventura appealed the decision, which will be revisited in late summer, and has continued to use cameras to catch drivers. Though Masone and anybody else who's already been slapped with a camera ticket might hang on that appeal, a flick of the governor's pen has made it a moot point for the rest of us.
Gov. Charlie Crist recently signed red-light cameras into state law. Beginning July 10, drivers will be fined $158 each ticket. The money will be split by city and state. Penalty points won't be assessed, but your license will be suspended if you don't pay.
The new law provides little room for argument, says law professor Jarvis. Drivers should expect speed-monitoring cameras to come next: "It's very hard to put the genie back in the bottle."
If you're wondering, Richard Masone hasn't gotten another red-light ticket since those two infractions in January 2009. That's not necessarily a good thing. "If I see the light turn yellow, I'm slamming on my brakes," he declares matter of factly. "If somebody behind me smashes into me, so be it. I'm not getting a ticket."