Red light ticket snafu case of 'it wasn't me'

By Josh Rojas, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, October 04, 2012

A Manatee County woman said she recently got nailed by a red light camera in Tampa even though she and her husband never left their Terra Ceia home that day.

"I couldn’t believe we had a citation in the mail because we’re pretty law abiding citizens," said Patty Fleming.

Fleming said the red light ticket for her moped came in the mail on Tuesday. The $158 citation was in her husband's name, Philip Fleming, because her moped's registered to him.

“Definitely not me, period," Philip said. "No way, no how.”

Fleming said her moped has been in storage for months and she only uses it to drive around her neighborhood.

"Parked in our garage and hasn’t been out for probably 6-to-9 months easily. You can see we’ve got flat tires on this thing,” she said. "We drive them around the island and that’s about it. We don’t even get out on U.S. 19 with these things."

But according to the Tampa Police citation, Fleming drove her moped through a red light at Gandy Blvd. and Dale Mabry on Sept. 24, at 10:37 p.m.

“I was very upset about it," Fleming said. "I’m guilty now and now I have to prove that I’m innocent. That I didn’t do this.”

Fleming believes she got the ticket because her license plate is similar to the plate on the seen on the red light camera photo except for one letter.

"I reviewed it myself online and I could see the ‘X’ very clearly. And it was not a ‘K’,” she said. “The image on the website, it looks like a full size motorcycle. Not a moped.”

Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said the officer who reviewed the red light camera photo could not find a motorcycle plate that ended in 'X-S' but he did find Fleming's tag that ends in 'K-S'.

“The officer ran multiple combinations and that’s the one that he came up with," Davis said. "There is no other combinations similar.”

Davis said 99 percent of mistaken identity red light tickets are legitimate but this case appears to be human error and the citation will be dismissed.

"It is a judgment call. We do not believe the citation should have been issued in the first place. That’s the bottom line,” Davis said. "We don’t want there to be any doubt. It needs to be 100 percent that the license plate is registered to that person."

The Flemings said they're thankful for the dismissal, “I think that’s just righteous," she said.

They also said the mistake wouldn't have happened if a patrol officer was pulling red light runners over instead of a camera being used.

“I think they need to do away with the red light cameras and let the police officers do their job,” Fleming said.

"To have a machine taking a picture and then get the picture wrong, no, I don’t think that’s the way to go,” Philip said. 

Davis said all drivers should review the photos and video that come along with a red light citation and if a problem is spotted call Tampa police.

"You have that opportunity to challenge that citation and we want people to do that,” she said.