Red-Light Fight

By: Ashlea Sigman Email
By: Ashlea Sigman Email

He said it was the first time he had ever been in court, but Thursday, College Station resident Jim Ash took the hot seat.

Ash tried to explain to Municipal Judge Ed Spillane why he shouldn't have to pay a $75 fine from a red-light camera.

Judge Spillane played video of Ash's car pulling up to an intersection as the light turned red, then making a right turn.

"My understanding is that the chain of custody of the evidence that you're looking at has not been followed. In that they're not licensed by the state to do that type of work in the state," said Ash.

Ash is citing a district judge's summary judgement in Dallas, a few weeks ago. The judge ruled that a red-light camera company must follow the texas occupations code and be licensed as an investigations company.

"I'm aware of the occupation code argument, the license and the case that's in Dallas," said Spillane. "What relevance does the licensing of the camera have to do with- one, the transportation code statute? Secondly, what does that have to do with whether or not you went through the red light?"

"So lacking a license, I feel that my notice of violation is deficient," said Ash.

College Station city attorneys argued the controlling law in the case was not the occupations code, but a city ordinance.

"At no point in time do they say there needs to be any sort of private investigations license," said College Station Assistant City Attorney Michael Matlack.

"I have no idea all the different contracts involved in all the different criminal cases where there's a higher standard," said Spillane. "My burden is to look at that and say did you, Mr. Ash, go through the red light? It seems clear to me that you did violate the civil statute."

Although Ash lost his fight Thursday, he plans to continue the battle.

"In a lot of ways I expected this outcome and these are never really decided at the municipal court level, they're always at the district court level, or federal court level where people ultimately get relief," said Ash.

A salesman by trade, Ash said this will be the last time he'll represent himself in court, and has already contacted an attorney about filing an appeal.

"It's gonna call for greater legal minds than mine at this stage," said Ash.

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