May 9th, 2016 by Attorney Dan Carman
Advances in camera technology mean they are everywhere, whether you realize it or not. Your interaction with a police officer may be recorded on her body cam; your shopping activity may be broadcast on a store surveillance cam; and that motorcyclist behind you may be watching your every move through the GoPro on his helmet. Mounted next to or over a road, traffic enforcement cameras have gained in popularity over the last decade to detect violations such as speeding, unauthorized use of a high-occupancy vehicle lane, or failure to pay a toll. One common type of automated traffic regulation surveillance is red light cameras.
These cameras continuously monitor the traffic signal and are triggered to take a photo by any vehicle entering the intersection above a preset speed and after a preset time that the light turned red. Motorists who cross into the intersection when the signal is red, fail to come to a complete stop before turning where right on red is allowed, or turn right on red where it is prohibited are all in violation of the law. Cameras typically record the date, time of day, time elapsed since the beginning of the red signal, vehicle’s speed and vehicle’s license plate. The evidence is supposed to be reviewed by human eyes before tickets are mailed to the vehicles’ owners.
It seems that while many people disagree with red-light running, it remains a common practice. In a 2015 national telephone survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 94 percent of drivers said it’s unacceptable to go through a red light if it’s possible to stop safely, but 39 percent reported doing so in the past 30 days. There have been several legislative pushes to use motion-sensitive cameras to catch red-light runners in Kentucky, but current law neither expressly permits nor expressly forbids it. A common discussion point is whether having a police officer review information captured on camera prior to ticketing is sufficient to meet any requirement that the violation must be witnessed by someone who is present at the time.
Other challenges to red-light cameras include that they put motorists at a severe defense disadvantage because of the time that can elapse before a ticket is received; they deny the constitutional due process right to confront and cross-examine adversarial witnesses; and they invalidate the presumption of innocence that follows from postulating that the registered owner of the vehicle is the guilty party regardless of who was actually driving. They may also may not be scientifically reliable enough to be accepted into evidence without question. For example, cameras require maintenance to ensure accuracy and are vulnerable to malfunction in extreme weather conditions.
If you or someone you care about has received a traffic ticket, or if you have any questions about this topic, discuss it with one of the attorneys at the Lexington, KY-based Carman Law Firm. Our qualified Lexington traffic offense lawyers can go over the circumstances of your charges and prepare a defense that will address clearing your driving record and helping you maintain your driving privileges. As criminal defense lawyers with years of experience, we offer thorough, experienced representation. Call today at (859) 685-1055 or fill out this online contact form to find out how we can help you.