Legalese — Red Light Cameras

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WaltonCounty doesn’t have any infamous ‘red light cameras,’ but a lot of the surrounding areas do.  Red light cameras are basically surveillance devices set up at intersections that automatically take pictures of vehicles going through the intersection when there is a red light.  The cameras are positioned to take pictures of the license plates of the vehicles, so there can be no mistake about which gold colored Toyota Camry went through the light.

Most people don’t intentionally – or even accidentally – run red lights.  But a lot of people ‘push the yellow’ and hope to make it through before the light turns red when they would have to wait for another cycle of the light.  It is these folks that these cameras are designed to catch, and they are primarily a safety device.  The revenue that the governing authority gets from these fines is not much – no more than $70.00 per violation (and usually less).

There was a lot of controversy over these devices initially.  People did not like the idea that there were cameras looking at them at intersections.  It felt invasive and Big Brothery.  From a legal standpoint, there was some concern that there was not any kind of human witness, or even a human operator of the cameras.  There were concerns raised that it violated the constitutional right we have to confront the witnesses against us.  We can’t exactly confront a camera.  Plus, the cameras take excellent pictures of the outside of the vehicle, but rarely can you tell who is driving the car.  I don’t like the idea of getting a ticket because my husband was driving a car registered in my name and ran a light.

The way the law has landed to satisfy all the criticism, and the way that has passed constitutional muster, is that a violation pursuant to a ‘red light camera’ is a civil penalty.  This means that it is not a traffic violation but more like a tax.  If you fail to pay it, there can be civil penalties, but there will not be points on your license, your insurance company will not know about it, and your driving record will still be clean.  (Or, at least, as clean as it was before the red light fine.)

There is no benefit in fighting these tickets if it was in fact your car that was pictured.  The fine will be less than the consultation fee most lawyers charge and, other than the fine itself, there are no more consequences for the payment.

This article was written by a lawyer, but should not be considered legal advice in any way, shape, or form.  It is written for general (and generally vague) informational purposes only.  In order to properly evaluate your case, a lawyer must examine all the facts and circumstances that are particular and personal to your situation.  I have not done that here


About Lori Duff 352 Articles
Lori is the author of the bestselling collection of humor essays, "Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza" currently available exclusively on Amazon. In order to finance her writing habit, she is a practicing lawyer with Jones & Duff, LLC. She is married to Mike Duff, who is a retired DeKalb County Public Safety Officer, and has two amazing children who make cameo embarrassing appearances in her blog posts and who attend Walton County Public Schools. Her legal column, "Legalese", is meant to de-mystify and humanize the Court system. When asked about her writing, Lori says, "Life is too short not to laugh at every available opportunity. My goal is to make myself laugh -- and hopefully you will laugh along with me."

1 Comment on Legalese — Red Light Cameras

  1. I agree on the ‘Big Brother’ aspect of the redlight cams.
    In other states there are also speed cams to kvetch about.
    However, both sets can be avoided if you have a GPS and can load the POI locations of them.

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