My question involves traffic court in the State of: TEXAS
First a quick apology to the posting length; I am trying to be thorough mainly to help others in the future if they come across this in a search.
I recently received a red light camera ticket in the mail from a small city near Dallas. Basically it's signed on the front that some police officer from the city watched the video and determined I ran the light hence the ticket. The ticket is $75 but I have a huge problem with two things, first that cities like this are taking the copout of declaring the ticket a "civil" penalty so they don't have to prove it was you driving, and second, I feel this completely violates the Confrontation clause of the 6th Amendment. So I want to contest it based on hearsay (namely Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts) , foundation (prove the camera is accurate) and a few other things I think will come up based on discovery. But I have some questions on what other rules applicable in criminal cases are not applicable by calling this a civil case.
First question: I called the ticket center and asked if it is a judge or a Justice of the Peace who will preside over the case, they said neither; it is a "hearing officer" hired by the police department. To me that reeks of a kangaroo court where there will be huge potential for abuse of due process (since who is going to pay to appeal a $75 ticket?). Obviously there is a huge conflict of interest here; the city pays someone out of money the city gets by that someone finding other people guilty. Is there anything I can do to guard against if this unelected, unaccountable official basically ignores the due process that would be given if real lawyers and cameras were present?
Second: What aspects of judicial proceedings are different by these tickets being called civil cases as opposed to criminal? Does the whole process of Discovery still apply (I am crafting my Discovery letter now)? Do Rules of Evidence still apply? Especially if this ends up being a kangaroo court I expect everything I say to be met with "this is a civil trial and whatever motion or objection you have doesn't apply here." The lady on the phone made it sound like the way the "hearings" run is they put the video in, it shows the person running the light, and the hearing officer says okay now try to talk your way out of it.
Third: Who should I mail the discovery request to? When I called the ticket customer service and asked who the Prosecuting Attorney is, is it the D.A. or the City Attorney, they said neither, there isn't one "since it's a civil case". All who will be present are the hearing officer, the officer who watched the video and me. So who gets the request for discovery? (And by the way, just by calling the case civil does that mean the city can get away without having anyone on the prosecution side, and if they say it's the officer who reviewed the tape, can the person prosecuting the case also be the sole witness?)
Lastly: The Texas Transportation Code that governs red light cameras has wording in it I find amazing: First is says that the reliability of the red light camera system can be attested to by an affidavit of someone in the police department. Second it says that the affidavit of the officer who reviewed the tape counts as evidence of the facts on the tape. How on earth can these decrees be even remotely lawful or enforceable?
Thanks for bearing through the long post, know that any helpful response will probably help a lot of others as well.