Everyone has seen, or at least heard, of red-light cameras, which are an increasingly common part of traffic law enforcement. There’s even a decent chance that you’ve been caught by a red-light camera yourself and had to pay a fine as a result. But why are red-light cameras so common, and how are they legal in the first place?
Red-light cameras, for those unfamiliar, are cameras positioned at stoplights, usually at busy intersections where drivers running red lights are common. These cameras automatically take a picture of any car that passes through the intersection when they’re not supposed to, capturing an image of the car’s license plates. The owner of the camera (usually the town or village where the camera is located, or a private company contracted to operate the camera) then sends a letter to the address registered to that license plate, which contains the fine for the alleged offense.
The reason for installing red-light cameras is simple: police can’t be everywhere at once, but minor traffic offenses happen all the time. By placing these cameras in places where red-light infractions are likely to occur, they can catch more people in the act and, hopefully, deter future infractions. Also, they have the incidental benefit of providing a revenue stream for local government, which certainly doesn’t hurt their popularity.
However, red-light cameras have faced controversy because of their automated nature. While, constitutionally, a person cannot be charged with a crime or face criminal penalties without their identity being confirmed by a witness (such as a police officer), a driver is still legally responsible for their car, even if they’re not the one driving it. The balance that the courts have struck is that you cannot be charged with a violation of traffic law (and suffer points on your license or a jail sentence) from a red-light camera alone. However, you can still be fined for someone driving irresponsibly in your car, even if they can’t prove that the person driving irresponsibly was you. The big exception to this, of course, is if your car was reported stolen, in which case you’re not responsible for what the thief does with your vehicle.
If you find yourself accused of a violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, the attorneys at McGuire, Peláez & Bennet, PC, will work protect your rights from undue burdens. For more information about our firm or to schedule a consultation, call our office at 631-348-1702 or fill out our contact form.