Many states now allow the use of automated camera systems to ticket drivers who run red lights. Here are some of the basics about red light cameras and how you might go about fighting a red light camera ticket (it's a little different than fighting a normal stoplight ticket).
Red light camera system work by triggering a camera or multiple cameras as a vehicle passes over a sensor in the intersection when the light is red. The cameras take pictures that normally show the vehicle's license plate and the driver. Many camera systems also take video footage of the vehicle driving through the red light.
Red light cameras are fairly accurate but sometimes are falsely triggered. To weed out errors, an officer or technician generally reviews the photos and videos before any tickets go out. If the reviewer determines there was a red light violation, the registered owner of the vehicle will receive a ticket in the mail.
The starting point for fighting a red light camera ticket is to view the photos and videos. The ticket the vehicle owner receives in the mail will normally include the photos and a web address to view videos. It's also important to read the state law pertaining to red light cameras—the available defenses depend on what the law says.
Probably the most common red light camera defense relates to who was driving the vehicle when the violation occurred. In most of the states, it's the driver—not the vehicle owner—who's liable for the violation. Many states allow owners who receive tickets to submit an affidavit swearing that he or she wasn't driving when the violations occurred. Generally, submitting this affidavit will result in the dismissal of the ticket.
Generally, the existence of the photos and video puts to rest any argument that no red light violation occurred. But red light camera systems and reviewers occasionally make mistakes. So, drivers can sometimes use the photos and videos to their advantage in getting a red light ticket dismissed.
Basically, the photos and videos must show the vehicle crossed the limit line or entered the intersection after the light turned red. Otherwise, there's no proof that the driver actually violated the law.
The laws of some states require signs that tell drivers red light cameras are in use at an intersection. Generally, these types of requirements specify what the signs must say and where in relation to the intersection they must be located. Drivers who are cited for violations at intersections that don't have the required signage might have a good defense to the ticket.
In some states, red light camera tickets carry the same penalties as any other red light violation. Generally, these penalties include fines in the range of $75 to $400 and demerit points being assessed to the driver's record.
But most states, for whatever reason, penalize red light camera violations less severely than traditional stoplight tickets issued by an officer. Camera violation fines are usually much lower and camera tickets typically don't result in demerit points.