Written by attorney Jeffrey Alan Lustick

Fighting Camera Issued Traffic Tickets in Washington State

Have you been ticketed through a traffic enforcement camera? Here's how you can fight back! Use this checklist to see if how the photo ticket you received will stand up in court. Was the photo ticket issued for an appropriate reason? In Washington, "photo tickets" or automated traffic enforcement citations, may only be issued to cite violators for running stoplights, running toll booths, unsafely crossing at railroad crossings, or speeding in school zones. No other violations can be cited using photo tickets. For example, if you receive a photo ticket for a seat belt violation; for expired tabs; or for a broken headlight, then you will have grounds to get the ticket dismissed at a contested infraction hearing. Was the photo ticket device properly signed and marked?All locations where photo ticket cameras are in use must be marked by signs clearly indicating to drivers that they are entering a zone where traffic laws are enforced by automated traffic safety cameras. If these signs or markings are not visible or they happen to be missing, it can warrant a dismissal of the photo ticket. Has the photo ticket been mailed with a photo of your vehicle? When you receive a photo ticket in the mail, the police must send you a copy of the actual photo taken by the automated device along with the ticket. If you are not sent any photo or if the photo of your supposed vehicle doesn't match your vehicle, then your ticket may be subject to dismissal. Was the photo ticket issued with the necessary time requirement? Under the law, a photo ticket must be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle within fourteen days of the violation. The ticket itself will state the date on which the violation was allegedly committed, and you should add 14 days to that date itself. You cannot count the violation date in the computation. And if the 14th day itself falls on a weekend or a legal holiday, don't use those days in the computation either. If it has been longer than 14 days, you can usually get the photo ticket thrown out. Was the photo ticket issued for something you did? The photo ticket law says any violation properly detected by a photo enforcement camera is the responsibility of the vehicle owner. But let's say you loaned your car to someone else and that person committed the violation and not you. If this happens, you can get the ticket dismissed by signing a written statement under oath (or testifying in court) that your vehicle was, at the time at the time of the violation, stolen or in the care, custody, or control of some other person. There is a special provision for rental cars which allows police to send photo tickets to renters if the identification of the renter can be determined. A word about deferred traffic violations. Washington law permits drivers to defer findings on a moving traffic violation once every seven years. Deferred traffic infractions get dismissed after one year if you maintain a clean driving record in that year and are beneficial because they are not reported to your insurance company. However, photo tickets, even if they are found committed, cannot be added to your driver's record and thus cannot be reported to your insurance company. For this reason, it probably does not make any sense to use your "once every seven year deferment on a photo ticket. You should save your deferred findings for when you get pulled over by an actual human police officer.

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