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Yellowdog's avatar

Robocop traffic cameras that are headquartered in far-away cities -- are they legitimate?

Asked by Yellowdog (12093points) July 13th, 2016

I recently received a “notice of violation” (and demand for $50 payment) for running a red light. I live in Memphis, and the company demanding payment (“City of Memphis Photo Enforcement Program) is located in Knoxville and has a P.O. box address).

The video link shows—well, its hard to tell, but I DID manage to capture a “Printscreen” image that I was in the intersection and past the line while the light was still yellow. In other words, it could be contested in court, though straight watching of the video it looks like a tie.

Anyhow, to contest in court would entail court costs (exceding the cost of the violation), parking (the cost of parking alone is half the price of the violation)— probably a lawyer because traffic court will often ignore you if you don’t have the clout of a legal person backing you. It would also involve standing in line for several hours with a sea of smelly and vulgar fellow criminals and violators.

So, I decided to just pay the fifty dollars, even though I do not make my living expenses meet from one end of the month to the other.

But some people have told me that this violation is NOT a traffic ticket. That a private company in Knoxville has paid a fee to the city of Memphis to install these cameras and technology and collect fees. If this were a legitimate ticket then the fine would be significantly over $100 and six points would be deducted from my driving record for running a red light (this company admits that “No points are deducted for these violations”).

So, c’mon— a company from Knoxville with Memphis in its name and a P.O. box address?

Anyhow, my friend says this is not a legitimate law enforcement issue and the company has no legal authority to collect fees. The company (“City of Memphis Photo Enforcement Program” of Knoxville) only threatens to hire collection agencies, enforce “additional fines” and “possible registration hold”) if I don’t pay.

Please tell me your experiences and knowledge of these types of violations. Are they legitimate? I realize you can’t give legal advice but I’d like to know what you think— and what you think I should do. Thanks.

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12 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Most municipalities don’t maintain or service the Red Light Cameras. They hire a private company that gets a percentage. It is legal.

You can contest the fine if you want.

elbanditoroso's avatar

The PO Box objection is a red herring. That’s most like a mail drop (PO Box) where all people do is open envelopes and pull out the checks. It’s like my Visa bill – I mail it to an address in Illinois even though the bank is here in Atlanta.

You may have more luck arguing that you should have the right to confront and question your accuser. Since your accuser is a camera, it’s sort of hard to ask it questions. I know that some cities have begun to require that a person be there to observe what the camera is doing (which make it uneconomical and then the drop the red light cameras)

Any way, if you are going to fight it, the POBox address is not going to be effective for you. The ‘conftont your accuser’ is.

Yellowdog's avatar

Thanks— I probably received bad advice from my friend,

Thanks to both Tropical Willie and Elbandotoroso— I CAN probably appeal (confront my accuser) and win, but the line of least resistance would be to go on and pay it pay it since there are no after effects.

I am still certainly open to what others have to say. Even damaging my credit could be a possibility and not worth fighting or risking. I may need the credit rating in the future.

ibstubro's avatar

I received a legitimate citation for running a red light in the town just across the state border from me. I ignored it. After a few months of notification of fine, I was sent warning that my home state was going to be told to suspend my driving license. That was 8–10 months ago.

The state where the citation was issued currently has a legal challenge of the red light cameras pending in court. I think they all do, and some states have declared red light cameras illegal.

You need a more local source of information regarding your state’s use of red light cameras.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

You may have more luck arguing that you should have the right to confront and question your accuser.

Note: the comment ” If this were a legitimate ticket then the fine would be significantly over $100 and six points ”

It’s an administrative violation like a parking ticket. You own the car, you pay the fine.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

This company is not in knoxville, they are in michigan. It’s a huge controversy in knoxville when they installed them at first. The company is for profit and supplies the cameras and maint. The city gets a cut of the revenue. After public outcry they were deemed non-moving violations. They make an officer review them all and they don’t go on your record but you can still be sent to collections and a host of other things. They also removed the “turning right on red” flag that caught hundreds of people off guard. There was so much resistance that the city tried to have them removed and the company sued for breach of contract or something like that. Some people even claimed that they shortened the yellow interval to catch more light runners. Nobody is happy about the situation.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@ibstubro I know, most here think that the city and the companies lawsuit is nothing but a charade. They’re just too profitable.

ibstubro's avatar

Well, and it is, by and large, good and easy profit, @ARE_you_kidding_me.

I’ve had 2 red light camera tickets.
The first I paid. Then researched as @Yellowdog did. It made me a believer. I broke the law and paid the price. Pushed my luck, and my luck didn’t hold. It happens that the cameras I’m talking about are on a busy interstate highway, and the trucks were in the habit of blowing by the 5 local stop signals.
IMO it’s free money from people that have broken the law.
The second ticket? I had a good reason (~) and the knowledge to ignore the citation.

Local municipalities gleaning profit from strangers and the uninformed.

kritiper's avatar

Yes, it sure is. You could always wait until a warrant is issued to deal with it. If you can afford to break the law anywhere, you should be able to pay the price.

SmartAZ's avatar

Bear in mind that legal advice from a stranger is worthless, so you need to ask a lawyer, regardless of what anybody tells you.

AFIK the law specifies exactly how a summons is to be delivered, and US Mail is not on the list. Another angle is that you have a right to confront the plaintiff, and there is no plaintiff. A third is that the programming or calibration of the instrument has to be proven in court. If there is programming involved, the manufacturer will probably refuse to reveal it and the case has to be thrown out. The only reason this lawless crap goes on is that the accused has to pay everybody’s salaries to argue about it. See if you can sue for “frivolous charge” or something when you win the case.

Zaku's avatar

“Anyhow, to contest in court would entail court costs (exceding the cost of the violation), parking (the cost of parking alone is half the price of the violation)— probably a lawyer because traffic court will often ignore you if you don’t have the clout of a legal person backing you. It would also involve standing in line for several hours with a sea of smelly and vulgar fellow criminals and violators.”
– Huh? Court costs can be zero, if you can show a good reason a charge should be thrown out. Maybe in your part of the country traffic court ignores people, but that’s certainly not what I’ve seen. In fact, it didn’t seem to me like the people in traffic court for minor infractions with lawyers necessarily were helped by them much, though I’m sure it depends on the case. Traffic cameras at least in some jurisdictions have some problems with habeas corpus – e.g. it may show your car, but in some places it’s not allowed to photograph the driver, and if you swear you weren’t driving your car at the time (e.g. someone else was driving it) and they have no evidence to contrary, they need to throw it out. But if you can really show a freeze frame showing you over the line with a yellow light, I’d say that sounds like you just need to print it out and show up, or even mail it in. I have beaten tickets by mailing in defenses before.

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