Red light cameras have expanded in use across the country while growing in controversy. Although proponents of the cameras argue that they reduce automobile fatalities and injuries, opponents complain that they violate due process rights. These cameras are currently in use in several North Carolina cities, so there is a chance that you could run afoul of one and receive a citation in the mail. In certain cases, you may be able to successfully appeal the ticket and have it dismissed. If you’ve received a red light camera ticket, you deserve to know your rights. Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, handles all types of traffic tickets and we can help with yours.
Overview of the Red Light Camera Program in North Carolina
Running a red light is illegal in North Carolina, but enforcing the law is relatively difficult. Recognizing that the police can’t be everywhere at once, several cities throughout North Carolina use cameras to catch and fine drivers who run red lights. Among those are Greenville, Fayetteville, Wilmington, and Raleigh. Other major cities like Charlotte and Greensboro operated the cameras in the past but have now terminated them. Controversies have arisen over how cities use the fines that drivers pay, but some of the most heated opposition is over claims that the cameras violate due process rights.
Here’s how the red light cameras work. A radar or sensor installed at an intersection detects a driver who runs a red light and takes two pictures of the vehicle. One picture will show the vehicle at the white line at which vehicles are required to stop. The second picture will show the vehicle in the intersection after the traffic light has turned red.
The camera also records such information as the date, time, and speed of the vehicle. The cameras are said to be carefully programmed so that only drivers who run red lights are caught. For instance, if a vehicle enters the intersection on a yellow light but doesn’t clear it until after the red light – a common occurrence during heavy traffic – the camera should not capture the vehicle.
The cameras generate citations, which are then mailed to the owner of the offending vehicle. The owner must pay the citation or appeal it within a certain time period, usually 30 days. Even if the owner of the vehicle was not driving it at the time, he or she must pay or appeal the citation. Red light camera tickets in NC range from $50 to $100 for the first offense. Subsequent tickets at the same intersection can be up to $250. Tickets do not result in DMV points on a driver’s license.
Appealing a Red Light Camera Ticket
If you believe that a red light camera ticket was issued in error, you have the option to appeal rather than pay the fine. You must request an appeal, usually within 30 days of receiving the citation. Because each municipality has its own rules, you should consult an attorney familiar with your city’s appeals process.
To contest a ticket, the owner may argue the following:
- The vehicle was in the care, custody, and control of another driver at the time it ran the red light. Your claim should be accompanied by an affidavit stating the name and address of the person or company who did have care, custody, and control of the vehicle at the time.
- The vehicle was stolen at the time it ran the red light. You will also need an affidavit, supported by evidence such as a police report or insurance records regarding the stolen vehicle.
- The owner received the citation more than 90 days after the date of the violation. Under North Carolina statute, the owner will not be responsible for the violation in this event.
Each municipality is allowed to institute its own appeals process. Hearings are administrative (not before a judge) and are generally informal. You will be given the opportunity to present your arguments and evidence before a hearing officer, who will later make a decision and notify you. Depending on which city issued the citation, you may be required to post a bond equal to the civil penalty before a hearing will be scheduled.
If the owner of the vehicle fails to pay the fine or appeal it within the time specified on the citation, he or she is deemed to have waived the right to appeal.
What If I Didn’t Run the Red Light?
The above appeals process presumes that the vehicle ran the intersection at the time of the red light, but that there was a legally justifiable excuse for why the owner should not pay the fine. However, there have been cases in which drivers were cited for making a legal left turn during a flashing yellow light. Had a police officer been present to monitor the intersection instead of an automated camera, the officer would have known that this type of turn is legal and would not have issued a citation.
This has raised substantial Sixth Amendment concerns over the red light cameras. The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right of citizens to confront their accusers in court. But how do you confront a camera?
If you believe you did not run a red light, it’s important to have an experienced traffic ticket attorney who can contest the circumstances in which you were issued the citation.
What Are the Consequences of a Red Light Camera Citation?
In addition to the fine, you could be facing a late penalty on top of that if you fail to pay it on time. Municipalities are authorized to establish procedures to collect the civil penalty and may enforce the penalties by civil action. Violations are non-criminal in nature but do not result in driver’s license points or insurance points. Violations also do not affect your driver’s license or vehicle registration.
Contact Our Experienced Carteret County Red Light Camera Ticket Attorney
If you’ve been issued a red light camera ticket, we can help. Our firm understands North Carolina’s traffic laws and can answer any questions you have. Give Hancock Law Firm, PLLC a call today.