Motorists often wonder whether the cameras at intersections can be used to catch traffic violations. In many states, these cameras are used to ticket drivers, though there are normally certain restrictions to their use. But there are also states where the use of these automated cameras to catch traffic violators is prohibited altogether. Here are some of the basics about when and how cameras can be used to issue speeding violation tickets.
Speed cameras aren't terribly complex. Essentially, these devices just combine radar technologies that measure speed with a camera. These photo radars scan the speed of each passing vehicle and will capture an image if a vehicle exceeds a certain speed. Some radar cameras also take video. Speed cameras are most often seen in high-risk areas such as school and work zones.
When a citation has been recorded and verified (an officer or some other person typically reviews the photos or video footage), a citation will be mailed to the vehicle's registered owner. Because it's not feasible to get a positive identification on the driver, the registered owner is normally presumed—unless proven otherwise—to have been the driver.
The citation should include instructions as to your rights and options for dealing with the ticket. Generally, you can pay the fine or contest the citation in court or in writing. Many states permit the owner to sign a declaration indicating that he or she was not the driver at the time of the alleged violation. Unless the police have photo evidence of the actual driver and it's the owner, the ticket will usually be dismissed based on the declaration.
Fines for camera tickets will generally be the same as or less than those for an officer-issued ticket. However, in some states, camera-issued tickets won't lead to traffic violation demerit points whereas an officer-issued ticket for the same violation does result in points.
Since the traffic enforcement cameras (red light and speed cameras) first started being used, attorneys have contested the constitutionality of their use. So, there have been lots of court decisions and many statutes relating to how, when, and where automated cameras can be used to catch traffic violators.
The courts in some jurisdictions, like Missouri, have found automated citations to be unconstitutional. However, most courts that have addressed challenges to red light and speed cameras have found they did not violate the constitutional rights of drivers.
Some states have laws that prohibit municipalities from using traffic violation cameras. But in states that do allow these cameras, there often certain restrictions related to their use. For example, state laws might restrict camera use to only school or work zones or require that signs be posted to inform drivers of the cameras. Additionally, some states require that traffic violation cameras be operated and maintained by law enforcement.