By Charles E. Beggs
SALEM A state law allowing police to use photo radar
to catch speeding drivers was unanimously upheld Thursday
by the Oregon Supreme Court.
The court rejected a challenge to the laws presumption
that the registered owner is the driver of a speeding vehicle.
Police issuing photo-radar tickets dont stop vehicles.
Instead, they mail citations to the autos owners by
using license-plate information shown in the photos.
Christine Dahl appealed after getting a ticket from Portland
police that said she was driving 36 mph in a 25 mph zone.
The Multnomah County Circuit Court upheld the citation, and
she was fined $85 in a decision upheld by the state Court
Dahls husband, Portland lawyer Jeffrey Dahl, argued
that the law violates constitutional due-process rights and
unfairly shifts the burden of proving innocence.
The Supreme Court said due process requires the state to
prove the elements of crimes beyond a reasonable doubt,
but the requirement doesnt apply to civil offenses such
as traffic violations that need proof by just a preponderance
of the evidence.
Due process poses no impediment to shifting the burden
of persuasion to the defendant in the traffic case,
the Supreme Court said in the opinion by Justice Rives Kistler.
He said the Legislature reasonably could select proof
of ownership as the point at which the burden shifts to the
registered owner to prove that he or she was not driving.
He said Dahl didnt submit any evidence to disprove
the presumption that she was driving the vehicle.
The law requires courts to a dismiss a photo-radar ticket
when an auto owner submits a certificate stating that he or
she was not driving.
The 1995 photo-radar law started as a pilot project permitting
use of the system by city police in Portland and Beaverton.
The Legislature later extended the authority to local police
agencies in Albany, Bend, Eugene, Medford and Tigard.