Montgomery County Police Capt. Paul Starks took the time to answer the questions submitted last week for our new feature.
Ask your question by emailing editor Sonia Dasgupta at email@example.com. We'll answer more next week.
Q: I would like to know why are there so many red light cameras and speeding cameras and how do they work?
Starks: Red light cameras document instances when a driver enters an intersection after a signal has changed to red. When this event has been reviewed and certified by members of the Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit, the registered owner of the vehicle receives a citation. This violation, when documented by a camera, carries a $75 fine but no points.
Speed cameras document instances where a driver has exceeded the posted speed limit by 12 mph or more. This violation, when documented by a camera, carries a $40 fine and no points. When this event has been reviewed and certified by members of the Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit, the registered owner of the vehicle receives a citation.
Q: What happens to a person if they argue with a cop or refuse arrest?
Starks: Arguing with an officer is not necessarily against the law. Disobeying a lawful order as well as physically resisting a lawful arrest is against the law and these could be other charges a person may face.
Q: How do you catch shoplifters, what do you do with them and how do you handle them?
Starks: Many shopkeepers and loss prevention teams detain shoplifters themselves and then call police if they decide to prosecute. Theft is against the law and these offenders are processed like other criminals.
Q: Why can't you ban people from using cell phones while driving?
Starks: Like the old saying goes, police don’t make the laws, police are given the authority by the state to enforce the laws passed by the legislature. Currently, using a cell phone while driving without a hands free device is against the law in Maryland.
Q: Why can't you put cameras at every railroad crossing to issue tickets to those people who try to get around the gates when they are lowered?
Starks: Again, any new law has to pass through the legislature. Currently, Maryland law does not encompass using cameras for this type of violation. If a person feels strongly about an issue, writing a letter to his/her elected representative is one way to let those know in power what a person believes.
Q: If there is a No U-Turn sign, is a Left Turn also prohibited?
Q: If there is a No Left Turn sign, is a U-Turn also prohibited?
Q: As far as I know, it is not illegal to pass a car on the left. What, exactly, would be the reasons for ticketing a driver for passing on the left? I am asking because the stated that passing vehicles is one reason a ticket would be issued.
Starks: The Smooth Operator enforcement program focuses on aggressive driving and drivers. If a driver passes another vehicle when it is unsafe to do so or in a unsafe manner, these circumstances could be a violation and an appropriate example of when a citation could be issued.
P.S. It is illegal to pass a vehicle on the left when prohibited. For example, passing and overtaking a vehicle on the left by crossing a solid double line is prohibited by law.