Judge Caprio dismisses dozens of Providence speed camera tickets

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence Municipal Court Chief Judge Frank Caprio dismissed dozens of Providence speed camera tickets Monday, calling the initial batch of violation notices that were mailed out in January “inadequate” because they didn’t properly identify the speed limit in school zones.

Hundreds of individuals who received the $95 violations stood in line at Municipal Court Monday to make a payment or request a trial date to fight their ticket, but the popular veteran judge surprised some of them by agreeing to toss out tickets as a result of errors made the company that oversees the new speed camera program.

TARGET 12: Providence issued 12,000 speed camera tickets in 33 days »

“The first notices that went out had the 20 miles per hour [speed limit notice] in a completely black section of the summons, in print so small that literally, you could not read that print without a magnifying glass,” Caprio told Target 12 after the court’s morning session ended. “And in those instances, I found that the summons was inadequate because it was incomplete on its face.”

Between the morning and night court sessions Monday, more than 2,600 individuals were on Caprio’s docket for alleged speed camera violations, although city officials said they weren’t expecting all of the recipients to appear. A spokesperson for the court estimated that about 700 people attended the morning session.

“Today, we broke the all-time record for the number of people that came to court,” Caprio said. The court normally has about 300 people on the docket on Mondays.

Target 12 first reported last week that more than 12,000 speeding camera tickets from five locations were issued during the first 33 days of the program, prompting a group of City Council members to call for the city to begin an education campaign on the cameras before installing any new ones. Six new cameras became operational Monday, but the Elorza administration announced over the weekend that will have a two-week warning period for drivers until they start receiving the $95 tickets.

Tickets can be issued for any vehicle caught traveling at least 11 miles per hour over the posted speed limit between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, according to the city’s contract with Conduent State and Local Solutions Inc., the private vendor that oversees both speed cameras and red light cameras in the city. The cameras are also portable, and the city’s contract with Conduent allows for two to be moved to new locations each week.

Conduent is paid $7.50 for every processed violation no matter the outcome of the ticket in Municipal Court, so the city is still required to pay the company even though Caprio issued dozens of dismissals.Victor Morente, a spokesperson for the Elorza administration, said Monday the city does not plan to seek any refund from the company. The total number of dismissed tickets was not immediately available.

Some individuals waited hours to appear before the judge, while others left court in disgust. Phyliss Hicks, who planned to seek a trial to challenge her ticket, said she didn’t know why only one judge was present to hear all the cases. There are four part-time Municipal Court judges: Caprio, state Reps. John Lombardi and Daniel McKiernan and volunteer Lisa Bortolotti. But they are typically assigned different weeks to work during the month.

“So people are going to walk out,” Hicks said. “People are going to say they’re going to pay. And most people don’t have that extra $95. I don’t.”

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Dan McGowan (dmcgowan@wpri.com) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook