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Kangaroo court

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In a world made ever smaller by globalization, the long arm of the law keeps getting longer.

Take the case of Chapel Hill native Erin Griffin, a waitress at Flying Burrito. She was working a Friday night shift when her sister Lindsay brought her mail by--a couple of bills, some junk mail and an out-of-the-blue reminder that she'd visited Australia last September.

Griffin had a great vacation. She hiked and swam, slept a lot and toured the Outback in a rented Ford Tempest. But her memories soured a bit when she opened the envelope with the foreign postage stamp. It contained a speeding citation from Australia, backed up with damning photographs taken by an automated camera that showed her car (and license plate) whizzing along a coastal highway on a gloriously sunny afternoon.

"They clocked me doing 82 in a 60 zone--but that's kilometers per hour, not miles," she says. "They had signs all over that warned you there were cameras but I didn't think they'd take a picture of me."

Griffin sees an up side: "At least now I have one picture of my trip that wasn't taken by me." But she's also pondering the potentially weighty jurisdictional issues. "My question is, are they going to be able to track me? And what if they do?"

A friend who was eating at the restaurant when the ticket arrived had this prediction: "Girl, they're going to extradite you to Australia."

Triangle residents should take note. In November, the Raleigh City Council approved a plan to install "red-light cameras" of the sort that have been used in Charlotte and other cities to snare traffic signal scofflaws. The idea has also come up for discussion in Durham.

For the equivalent of 70 U.S. dollars, Griffin could make her ticket problem go away. But for now, she's going to take her chances and spend the money on a new car muffler instead. Besides, she expects to be cleared on a technicality. Despite their state-of-the-art traffic surveillance, the Aussie authorities misspelled her name on the ticket.

"I'm not sure what's going to happen," Griffin says. "But if they decide to pursue this, 'Erin Griggins' is in some deep shit."

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