7 On Your Side: Red-light camera confounds New Jersey couple

FARMINGVILLE, New York (WABC) -- A family from New Jersey was fighting a a ticket over a red-light camera that caught them red-handed going through a Long Island intersection against the light. The point of contention? They were in a funeral procession being led by police.

It wasn't so much the money as it was the principle. After all, how do you get tagged for a red-light violation even when the video shows your four-way flashers on and funeral signs in your vehicle that is following a hearse led by police?

The video was shot by a red-light camera in Farmingville, where Horseblock Road crosses North Ocean Avenue. It shows the light turn red before Erin Short rolls right through, but she and her husband Matt had a very good reason.

"That what you do in a funeral procession, any other procession," she said. "That's what you do. You go through the lights because the police is there to escort you."

The couple was on their way to their Uncle Bob's funeral, and Robert Lynch was a father of four and a longtime police officer. The video shows one of the many police cruisers escorting the procession, but just weeks after the funeral, they received a violation.

"Matt's like, 'You got a ticket,'" Erin said. "I said, 'There's no way I ran a red light.' He said, 'In Long Island?' I said, 'OMG, that was during the funeral procession.'"

The only options were to either pay the fine or dispute it in person, in court. So Erin called, thinking the circumstances would be easy to explain.

"I said, 'Is there any way I can get this dismissed?'" Matt said. "And they informed me, even if it's a funeral procession, you have to appear in court."

But since the Shorts live in Lincoln Park, taking the day off work to make the 114-mile round-trip trek to Suffolk County just wasn't worth the time or the fine.

"It would essentially be an entire day out of our lives to go and fight this $80 charge," Matt said.

So just before Christmas, they made another call, to 7 On Your Side. We contacted the Red Light Safety Program in Suffolk County and requested it take a second look.

"This is an official letter from the county saying they did dismiss the ticket without us having to go to court," Erin said.

The citation was dropped and fines dismissed.

"Thank you so much 7 On Your Side," Erin said. "I really appreciate it. You guys are awesome."

Starting Tuesday in Suffolk County, drivers will be able to dispute red light violations by phone. They can tell their side of the story and ask for review by calling the phone number on the ticket. County officials want us to underscore that if you're driving in a funeral procession, unless there's a police officer at the intersection, you should obey traffic laws.
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