Thousands could benefit from Providence speed camera settlement

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The city of Providence has begun the process of notifying more than 24,000 drivers caught on camera speeding that they are eligible to receive a refund and pay a reduced fine as part of a settlement to a class-action lawsuit challenging the city’s speed camera program.

U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell Jr. gave preliminary approval to the settlement last week, clearing the way for the city to begin sending 24,595 notices to every individual caught on camera speeding between Jan. 16 and April 15.

Under the terms of the settlement, individuals who have already paid a $95 fine are eligible to receive a $20 refund from the city, while those who haven’t yet paid their fine are eligible to pay $75. All members of the class have the option of requesting a new hearing before a Municipal Court judge, giving them the opportunity to wipe out their fines altogether or receive a full refund.

Refunds won’t be sent until after Judge McConnell holds a fairness hearing on the settlement in September, according to Victor Morente, a spokesperson for Mayor Jorge Elorza.

The lawsuit challenged multiple facets of the city’s speed camera program, which currently tickets drivers caught traveling at least 11 miles per hour over the posted speed limit between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The fine is $95. The city collected $1.8 million in revenue and issued 36,883 tickets as of June 12.

The suit claimed summonses sent by the city were “misleading and deficient,” arguing that the city didn’t include the state’s actual speeding law on tickets and wrongly asserted that violations would not affect insurance rates. The city began sending revised tickets to drivers on April 16.

All members of the class will receive a three-page notice in the mail explaining they have three options as a result of the settlement: they can accept it and will be eligible to receive a refund, pay a reduced fine or request a hearing; they can exclude themselves from the settlement and retain their own right to bring a legal action against the city; or they can object, which allows them to challenge the fairness of the settlement.

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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

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