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City of Aventura v. Masone

Florida Court of Appeal, Third District

November 30, 2011

CITY OF AVENTURA, Florida, Appellant,
Richard MASONE, Appellee.

Rehearing Denied March 6, 2012.

Page 234

Weiss Serota Helfman Pastoriza Cole & Boniske, Fort Lauderdale, and Edward G. Guedes and Michael S. Popok, Miami, for appellant.

Bret Lusskin, Hallandale, Burlington & Rockenbach and Bard D. Rockenbach and Andrew A. Harris, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

Carlton Fields and Samuel J. Salario, Jr., and Joseph Hagedorn Lang, Jr., Saint Petersburg, and Amanda Arnold Sansone, Tampa, as Amicus Curiae.

Before CORTIÑAS and ROTHENBERG,[1] JJ., and SCHWARTZ, Senior Judge.


The City of Aventura (the " City" ) seeks review of the trial court's ruling that section 48-26 of the City's Code of Ordinances, allowing the use of image capture technologies for monitoring and enforcing laws relating to traffic control signals, is invalid and unenforceable. We reverse.

The City is a municipal corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Florida, and located in Miami-Dade County, Florida. On October 18, 2007, the City enacted Ordinance 2007-5, inclusive of section 48-26, which in pertinent part, authorized the City to use a monitoring system consisting of cameras at traffic lights to capture and record images

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of drivers who fail to stop at red lights (" red light infraction" ), and issue notices of violation for such red light infractions after the images are reviewed for accuracy by a traffic control review officer appointed by the City. See Aventura, Fla., City Code, ch. 48, art. 3 & ch. 2, art. 5, § 2-348(b) (2007).

After allegedly failing to stop at an intersection monitored by automated cameras, Richard Masone (" Masone" ) was issued two (2) violation notices on January 9, 2009, and January 12, 2009, respectively. Masone filed a complaint for declaratory relief, contending that the two violation notices were invalid exercises of municipal authority, and seeking that 1) the Ordinance be declared invalid, 2) the Ordinance be declared invalid to the extent it applies to red light violations, and 3) that any municipal traffic citations issued under the Ordinance be declared to be of no legal effect.[2] Specifically, Masone argued that, in enacting the Ordinance, the City has legislated on a subject reserved exclusively for the Florida Legislature and, as such, the Ordinance is invalid because it is preempted by, and directly conflicts with, Florida law. In defending the Ordinance, the City asserted that, by adopting Chapter 316, Florida Statutes, the Legislature expressly authorized municipalities to supplement existing statewide traffic control laws by granting local municipal governments the right to regulate traffic on roadways throughout their respective boundaries through security devices such as the red light camera system adopted in the Ordinance. Further, the City argued that any penalties imposed were deemed non-criminal, non-moving violations for which a civil penalty was assessed, as authorized by the Florida Legislature for code infractions.

Ultimately, the trial court granted Masone's motion for summary judgment, reasoning that section 48-26 was an invalid exercise of municipal power without express authority from the Florida Legislature allowing the City to legislate the subject. Specifically, the trial court stated that " the problem exists with the provision of Section 48-26 which allows such cameras to be used as the sole basis for issuing citations against drivers who disobey an official traffic device.... Section 316.640(5)(a), Florida Statutes, requires that citations be issued when an officer ‘ observes the commission of a traffic infraction.’ " Based upon these reasons, the trial court concluded that section 48-26 is in direct conflict with section 316.007, Florida Statutes. We disagree.

It is well established that Florida law grants municipalities broad home rule and police powers. The Florida Constitution provides for such municipal powers, by stating that

Municipalities shall have governmental, corporate and propriety powers to enable them to conduct municipal government, perform municipal functions, and render municipal services, and may exercise any power for municipal purposes except as otherwise provided by law.

Art. VIII, § 2(b), Fla. Const. This principle of broad municipal home rule powers is codified in chapter 166, Florida Statutes. For example, section 166.021(3)(c), Florida Statutes states:

The Legislature recognizes that pursuant to the grant of power set forth in s. 2(b), Art. VIII of the State Constitution,

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the legislative body of each municipality has the power to enact legislation concerning any subject matter upon which the state Legislature may act, except:
(c) Any subject expressly preempted to the state or county government by the constitution or by general law....

§ 166.021(3)(c), Fla. Stat. (2008). The plain language therefore grants a municipal government the authority, under broad home rule powers, to enact local ordinances, which are not inconsistent with general law.

In furtherance of a municipal government's broad home rule powers, " [a] regularly enacted ordinance will be presumed to be valid until the contrary is shown, and a party who seeks to overthrow such an ordinance has the burden of establishing its invalidity." Lowe v. Broward Cnty., 766 So.2d 1199, 1203 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000) (quoting State ex rel. Office Realty Co. v. Ehinger, 46 So.2d 601, 602 (Fla.1950)). Also, it is clear that " [w]here there is no direct conflict between the two, appellate courts should indulge every reasonable presumption in favor of an ordinance's constitutionality." City of Kissimmee v. Fla. Retail Fed'n Inc., 915 So.2d 205, 209 (citation omitted.); see also Lowe, 766 So.2d at 1203 (" An appellate court will ‘ indulge every reasonable presumption in favor of an ordinance's constitutionality.’ " ) (quoting City of Pompano Beach v. Capalbo, 455 So.2d 468, 469 (Fla. 4th DCA 1984)).

Florida's Uniform Traffic Control Law, embodied in chapter 316, Florida Statutes, provides for uniform traffic laws throughout the state, counties, and local municipalities. §§ 316.001, 316.002, Fla. Stat. (2008). Entitled " Provisions uniform throughout state," section 316.007, Florida Statutes, provides, in pertinent part, that

[t]he provisions of this chapter shall be applicable and uniform throughout this state and in all political subdivisions and municipalities therein, and no local authority shall enact or enforce any ordinance on a matter covered by this chapter unless expressly authorized.

§ 316.007, Fla. Stat. (2008). Notably, however, the Uniform Traffic Control Law also expressly recognizes the power of municipalities to pass traffic ordinances for the regulation of municipal traffic in their respective jurisdictions. § 316.002, Fla. Stat. (2008). Enumerating certain " powers of local authorities," section 316.008, Florida Statutes, specifies that:

(1) The provisions of this chapter shall not be deemed to prevent local authorities, with respect to streets and highways under their jurisdiction and within the reasonable exercise of the police power, from:
(a) Regulating or prohibiting stopping, standing, or parking.
(b) Regulating traffic by means of police officers or official traffic control devices.
(w) Regulating, restricting, or monitoring traffic by security devices or personnel on public streets and highways, whether by public or private parties and providing for the construction and maintenance of such streets and highways.

§ 316.008, Fla. Stat. (2008).

Thus, the plain text of the Uniform Traffic Control Law expressly confers authority to a municipal government to regulate traffic within its municipal boundaries as a reasonable exercise of its police power where such regulation does not conflict, but supplements the laws found therein. See §§ 316.002, 316.008(1)(w), Fla. Stat. (2008). Here, the Ordinance was enacted by the City, under its broad home rule powers in response to

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concerns that drivers at dangerous intersections within the municipal boundaries were failing to heed existing traffic control signals, resulting in a high incidence of serious, life-threatening accidents. As set forth in section 316.002, " [t]he Legislature recognizes that there are conditions which require municipalities to pass certain other traffic ordinances in regulation of municipal traffic that are not required to regulate the movement of traffic outside of such municipalities." § 316.002, Fla. Stat. While chapter 316 creates traffic laws which are applicable throughout the entire state, municipalities have the power to pass certain ordinances that regulate municipal traffic within their borders. The City is in a unique position to identify dangerous intersections within its boundaries and implement additional safeguards to prevent accidents at such intersections. Accordingly, the City's enactment of the Ordinance to regulate traffic through the use of cameras was a proper exercise of the granted authority to regulate, control, and monitor traffic movement.[3]

The trial court found that the Ordinance conflicts with the Uniform Traffic Control Law. In order for this Court to find that there is conflict between the Uniform Traffic Control Law, and the Ordinance, both " must contradict each other in the sense that both the legislative provisions (the ordinance and the statute) cannot co-exist." F.Y.I. Adventures, Inc. v. City of Ocala, 698 So.2d 583, 584 (Fla. 5th DCA 1997). In other words, " [t]hey are in ‘ conflict’ if, in order to comply with one, a violation of the other is required." Id. Because municipalities enjoy broad home rule powers, the regulation of vehicular traffic is a well-established legitimate exercise of municipal police power. See City of Miami v. Aronovitz, 114 So.2d 784, 788 (Fla.1959) (" Giving recognition to our established judicial viewpoint that an automobile is a dangerous instrumentality, we must concluded [sic] that any procedure lawfully directed toward the effective prevention of the negligent operation of the automobile and the imposition of requirements of competency on the part of the driver thereof, should meet with judicial approbation." ).

Here, the Ordinance is consistent, and does not conflict, with any provision found within the Uniform Traffic Control Law as mandated by section 316.007, Florida Statutes. Local authorities are explicitly granted the right to enact laws or ordinances within their home rule power, supplemental to existing state laws, to regulate, control, and monitor traffic movement. Because there is no provision in the Uniform Traffic Control Law that expressly preempts or conflicts with the Ordinance necessary to overcome the City's exercise of its broad home rule powers, we find the Ordinance valid under Florida law.

The trial court found that the Ordinance was in conflict with section 316.640(5)(a), Florida Statutes, in so far as the subsection " requires that citations be issued when an officer ‘ observes the commission of a traffic infraction.’ " However, upon complete review, we find that section 316.640(5)(a), Florida Statutes, is applicable only to " traffic infraction enforcement officers" as employed by a municipality to issue ...

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