by Chris Heaton - Vice President of Membership & Chapter Relations
On July 31, 2017, Governor Brown signed AB 1616, effectively ending the continuing threat by local jurisdictions to assess civil fines or penalties against alarm companies for false dispatches. California joins Texas and Florida with similar legislative restrictions that prohibit such fines unless alarm company operator error or improper equipment or installation was demonstrated. It may run contrary to any reasonable person’s view of due process, but California was the focal point on previous attempts by municipalities to fine alarm companies, rather than end-users for false dispatches, without regard to the reason for the alarm.
Imagine a municipality sending “red light camera” tickets to the auto maker for all vehicles rather than the registered owners, who ran the red lights. That is essentially what cities like Fontana and Chico, California attempted to do, rather than address the source of the clear majority of false dispatches – the end user.
The California Alarm Association, Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) and a host of concerned alarm dealers and integrators banded together to legally challenge these ordinances and they were successful, but it was not without cost. And, the continuing threat of other cities in California imposing similar ordinances remained present - until July 31, 2017.
This legislation will serve as a model for other states where it is sadly needed, like Georgia, Tennessee, Colorado and Arizona, where local ordinances have been proposed or recently passed that place similar burdens on alarm companies, rather than end users, without regard to culpability.
The most immediate need for action is Georgia, where Sandy Springs recently passed an ordinance similar to Fontana, California. City leaders in Sandy Springs were indignant when confronted with the failed attempts of cities like Fontana to enact similar ordinances. They reminded our members, that they are not in California. Fortunately, the due process clause of the United States Constitution applies to Georgia, just like it does in California. Unfortunately, it falls on ESA, SIAC, chartered chapters (like CAA and GELSSA in Georgia) and member companies to bear the cost of litigation – until state laws are passed to end the threat.
These threats can come up anywhere. Your support for ESA and chartered chapters is key to our success against attempts to violate your due process as a business owner. We will remain vigilant and when needed, we will ask for your help.