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2:58 PM Mon, Dec. 10th

Ignore photo radar ticket, pay an additional fine

PRESCOTT VALLEY - The Prescott Valley Police Department implemented photo enforcement a year and a half ago to reduce speeding - and accidents.

Despite extensive media coverage, some motorists who receive tickets are uninformed, and are facing the consequences. They face a $26 process server fee - even if they attend traffic school - if they did not notify the Magistrate Court of their intentions after receiving a ticket in the mail.

The company that operates the photo-enforcement equipment, Redflex Traffic Systems of Scottsdale, hires process servers.

The initial ticket notifies motorists that they may pay the fine, attend traffic school or show up in court to contest the ticket for driving 11 miles or more above the posted speed limit, running a red light or both. Tickets start at $190.

Rodney Szabo, 43, of Prescott said he attended traffic June 21 one month after he received a ticket for driving 36 mph in a 25 mph zone on Second Street. A process server showed up at his door five days after he attended the $130 class.

Ironically, a notice apparently arrived on the same day at the Magistrate Court that Szabo had taken the weekend driving class. Szabo received a notice in the mail July 16 from the court that he owed the $26 fee.

Szabo did not notify the court through the mail or in person that he planned to attend the traffic school, Magistrate Presiding Judge Keith Carson and other town officials said.

"That was obviously too late for him to be taken off the process server list," Carson said Tuesday.

Carson upheld the fee Wednesday morning, telling Szabo the taxpayers should not have to bear the cost for process serving because he did not read the red waiver notice box on the initial ticket. He ordered Szabo to pay the fee by Aug. 26.

After the hearing, Szabo said, "I don't think it is fair that I have to notify the court what my intentions are as long as I take care of it before my court date."

Carson said the court handles more than 20,000 photo-enforcement tickets each year, adding process server fees account for a small percentage for the overall tickets.

"And I try to be fair to people," Carson said.

Assistant Town Attorney Colleen Auer, who reviewed a written complaint from Szabo's wife, Trudy, defended the policy.

"You as a defendant have an obligation" to respond to a ticket, she said. "The idea being that as an incentive to do that, you are given additional time to respond to the complaint. You basically get 60 days to respond to the complaint."

Auer said state law gives municipalities three months to serve somebody with a citation.

"We do our best to make sure the paperwork is clear," she said.

Motorists who respond to the waiver box face license suspensions if they do not follow through with any of the three options, Sgt. Wayne Nelson of the Police Department said. He added the Police Department issued 3,232 photo-enforcement tickets in June.

Motorists who receive photo-enforcement citations need to read them thoroughly, said Kelli McFarland, owner of Alliance Investigations, a Prescott-based company that provides process serving.

"Don't yell at the process server," McFarland advised. "Call Redflex. Have all your receipts and your paperwork from the driving school."

Michael Ferraresi, associate marketing manager at Redflex, did not return calls from the Courier.

Contact the reporter at khedler@prescott.com