Today, I beat a red light ticket. And I beat it with a foolproof defense. Every single person who gets a red light ticket should use it.
Well, you should use it if your spouse was driving the car and not you. And you should not — I repeat, should not — lie and say your spouse was driving simply to get off the ticket. That would be wrong, even more wrong than a government video taping its citizens to record minor traffic infractions.
Anywho, my battle with the court system began when I got a $190 ticket in the mail, which included a link to a video that showed my Volkswagen blowing through a light at 10:10 p.m. on Dec. 5. The ticket explained that Florida’s red light camera law specifies that if you weren’t driving your car when it ran a red light, you have to fill out an affidavit stating who was. But I had a rock-solid defense, so I requested a court hearing, which came this morning.
When it was my turn, the only people left in the courtroom were a couple lawyers, a half dozen cops there to testify, and a handful of court clerks. The judge began by asking a Fort Lauderdale Police Department officer to play the tape of my car cruising through a red light.
He turned to me with eyebrows raised skeptically and asked, “What’s your defense?”
The speech I read was an impassioned plea the wife, a law school professor, helped prepare (the full speech is copied below, and if it applies to you, you should damn well use it in court too). I gave the judge copies of the Florida Statute I cited and offered him copies of Florida Supreme Court rulings that were applicable.
The judge was reluctant at first. “If you weren’t driving the car, you need to tell me who was,” he said.
“You can’t ask me that, your honor,” I replied, and immediately I regretted the answer.
“I can ask you anything I want,” he said, and I knew he was right.
“Sorry, your honor, what I meant to say was that Florida law allows me to decline to answer that question.”
There was some more back and forth, and he spent a couple minutes studying the statute. As he did, a couple cops sitting next to me as I stood at the podium started whispering, “You can’t claim spousal privilege. It only works in civil court.”
“That’s not right,” I whispered back at them.
“You’re wrong,” one of them said, shaking her head with a smile.
Finally, the judge asked, “So, were you driving the car?”
“No, your honor.”
“Okay, case dismissed.”
The clerks handed me a form indicating that the charge had been dropped, and I walked out a free man. Okay, I would’ve been free even if I had been found guilty. But I also would’ve been perhaps $600 lighter. And now anyone whose spouse was actually driving when their car went through a red light has a rock-solid defense.
The red light camera spousal privilege defense
Good morning, your honor. As the owner of the vehicle, the local ordinance requires that I sign an affidavit indicating who was driving, if it wasn’t me. However, in this instance, a Florida statute forbids this.
I would refer you to Florida Statute Section 90.504, also known as the spousal privilege. This statute says that a spouse is not required to testify against the other spouse, and so in this case, I am not required to testify against the person who may have been driving the car that night.
The spousal privilege has long been recognized in Common Law and in Florida law. The Florida Supreme Court decided Henderson v. Chaires in 1889. The citation is Volume 6 of the Southern Reporter, page 164 (1889). The court in Henderson compared it to the attorney client privilege. It said, on page 166: “No rule of law is better established than that which forbids disclosures by husband or wife as witnesses of matters or conversations occurring between them ….”
As I noted earlier, the Florida Legislature codified the spousal privilege in Florida Statute Section 90.504. And it has been recognized time and time again in the courts, including recently in the Florida Supreme Court case of Kaczmar v. State in 2012. The citation is Volume 104 of the Southern Third Reporter, page 990. The Florida Supreme Court held that communications between a husband and wife were privileged because the husband “had a reasonable expectation of privacy while speaking privately with his wife,” and the court held that admitting the testimony at the trial court “was error.”
So I would ask that this ticket be dismissed.