Written by Avvo Staff

Got a speed camera or red light camera ticket? Here’s what you should know.

Photographic enforcement of traffic laws

Many states and cities use automated cameras to detect when drivers run red lights or drive above the speed limit. These tickets are often treated like ordinary traffic and parking tickets. As such, you usually have an option to pay the fine or contest the ticket. If you plan to contest the ticket, be sure to consider the special circumstances of camera tickets.

The camera ticket process

Different states and cities have different processes and laws for handling photo enforcement.

Usually, a police officer will review the videos or photographs taken by the camera and issue a ticket if they believe there is a violation. In some locations, private companies review the material instead of police officers.

The ticket is then sent to the registered owner of the car, who can either pay the fine or contest the basis for the ticket.

If you contest the ticket, then the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the traffic infraction. Though the state bears the burden of proof, you should still be proactive in your defense.

Camera ticket defenses

Camera-enforced tickets can be contested like ordinary tickets, though there are some special defenses available. The following list of defenses is not exhaustive, and will vary depending on your state or city.

  • The traffic violation was necessary to avoid an accident or other emergency situation

  • You were not the operator of the vehicle at the time the photo was taken

  • The photo’s clarity is insufficient to identify your license plate

  • There was no notification of photo enforcement by nearby traffic signs

Some states and cites will allow you to enter a sworn statement describing why the defense applies to your case, others will require you to attend a court hearing and make your statement under oath to a judge. A flat statement is usually not sufficient, supporting details and explanations are often necessary.

Red light cameras

Red light cameras detect when a car passes through an intersection while a red light is showing in their direction.

If you are charged with running a red light, your first step should be to investigate the intersection and time the yellow light to ensure it meets legal standards. There are complex rules for yellow light duration, but the yellow light should last approximately 4 seconds on a 35 mph road. If it is much shorter, you may have a legal defense for the running of the red light.

Additionally, some states allow for right turns at red lights after coming to a complete stop. A traffic camera could activate and take a photo of you, even if you are taking a legal right turn.

Consequences of photo-enforced tickets

The penalty of a photo-enforced ticket is typically the same as any other traffic ticket, which vary based on the severity of the violation.

Traffic violations are usually lesser offenses, and do not typically rise to the level of criminal misdemeanors. However, if you do not contest or are found guilty of the violation you will be required to pay a fine. Higher speeding tickets or more dangerous behavior will usually result in higher fines.

Additionally, insurance companies often raise premiums on automotive insurance due to traffic violations. Like fines, premiums will increase more with more severe traffic violations.

If you have several traffic infractions on your driving record you could face more severe penalties. It is important to review your local traffic laws or consult with a traffic attorney to avoid facing such penalties.

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