The Lowdown on Red-Light Cameras
Every week at Dale Carson Law, we get calls from angry drivers that have received notices of violation (NOV’s) in the mail. These NOV’s are issued to the registered owner of a vehicle that is alleged to have run a red light. I really sympathize with these folks. Personally, I feel that the cameras were simply set up to pull money from the pockets of local drivers and deposit it neatly in the bank account of a shady corporation known as Redflex Holdings. Why, pray tell, is Redflex shady? Well, it just so happens that the corporation that has been “Making roads safer for 25 years” has recently had a CEO indicted on Federal bribery charges[i], is facing a pricey class action lawsuit for improper practices under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act[ii], and is presently under investigation in 13 states (including Florida)for bribery, fraud, and/or corruption[iii]. Now sure Redflex has a checkered past, and then there is the fact that numerous studies have debunked the idea that red-light cameras actually decrease accidents[iv], but if our local politicians can get in on the cash grab, sign us up!
I suspect that many of you reading this post are not interested in the backroom political dealings that brought this wonderful technology to our state. You just want some guidance now that you have received the ominous yellow envelope demanding a shakedown in the amount of $158. Well, fear not, brave souls, the answer lies below. But before I start, let me mention that this post is based on my experience dealing with these citations in counties in Northeast Florida. Other areas of the state may have different procedures for dealing with red-light camera citations, so please proceed accordingly.
Upon getting a notice of violation (NOV) in the mail, a driver has the ability to go to https://www.violationinfo.com/ and watch the video of the alleged infraction. This may give you a better idea of whether the violation is worth fighting or not. At this point, you have a few options:
- Pay the citation.
- Submit an affidavit alleging one of the four following exemptions:
- You were yielding to an emergency vehicle or part of a funeral procession;
- You were directed through the light by a law enforcement officer;
- You were not driving (you must provide the other driver’s identification); or
- You already received a Uniform Traffic Citation (UTC) for running that particular light.
- Request a hearing.
- Do nothing.
- If you choose to pay the citation, you will not receive points on your license.
- If you submit an affidavit, make sure that it is completely filled out and supplemented with any other documents (UTC, other driver’s info, etc) or the court will likely strike the affidavit.
- If you choose a hearing, make sure you have a decent argument. I have seen people make many successful arguments, including: turning right on red and stopped prior to the intersection; en route to hospital for emergency; that is not my car, and I sold my car so that must have been the guy test driving it, are a few.
- This one may be a bit technical, but there is a requirement under the rules of evidence that pictures or videos must meet a predicate for admission. This means that before the pictures or video can be used as evidence, a witness, when challenged, must authenticate the picture or video as being “a fair and accurate depiction of the subject”. Generally, the red-light camera video is reviewed, cropped, cut, and otherwise modified by someone at Redflex. Only then is it sent to a local law enforcement officer for final review. As such, the officer likely can’t testify adequately to the predicate for admission. I regularly object to the admission of red-light camera evidence on these grounds.
- Don’t assume that just because you set a hearing, the magistrate or judge will be sympathetic.
- If you have a hearing, don’t be the guy or girl that makes a huge scene. You will never win.
- Dress appropriately for court. For guys, this means slacks, dress shoes, and a collared shirt. For girls, this means conservative slacks, dresses, skirts, and/or blouses. Nothing too short or low cut.
- In the event that you wait and do nothing, you will receive a UTC. When you receive a UTC you have similar options as with an NOV, but my experience is that there are great protections afforded to a Defendant when a UTC is issued. The downside to a UTC is that the potential penalties increase (maximum $500 fine) and points may be assessed.
- Finally, don’t be scared or intimidated by the process. The companies that make millions of dollars on these citations are banking on people being too lazy or dumb to fight and win. Accept the challenge, do your research, and show up to court prepared to succeed. Many people have won these, and you can too.
If you have any questions or thoughts on the topic, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org