Are Red-Light Cameras Legal?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on June 27, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Red-light camera lawsuits have been piling up nationwide in a variety of different jurisdictions. Which, can only beg the question - are red light cameras legal?

Red-light cameras are a fixture in many major cities across the U.S. The cameras dutifully snap up photos of drivers who zip across the road when the light is red - and in some cases, unfairly so, according to many opponents of red-light cameras.

Los Angeles, one of the nation's biggest cities, may be doing away with their red-light cameras soon if the city council does not agree to continue the program.

And, oddly enough, even though each ticket that's sent off to vehicle owners is a $446 bill, a city audit has revealed that cameras actually cost them $1 to $1.5 million more than what they bring in, reports MSNBC.

In many of the red-light camera lawsuits, the question also turns on the legality of the cameras. Some allege that the cameras violate due process and equal protection rights. For example, not all those who run the red lights get issued tickets - and the tickets that are issued are automatically sent off to the registered owner of the car, who may not have even been the driver at all, according to MSNBC.

And, in some cases, the punishment between a red-light ticket written by a police officer and a red-light ticket issued by a camera are completely different. A Florida court has ruled that red light tickets written by officers as unconstitutional because of the discrepancy in fines and punishments for the tickets.

A variety of different states, counties and cities are also evaluating whether or not red-light cameras are legal. There may not, however, have been a red-light lawsuit in your area - or a vote against red-light cameras - meaning that the cameras can still be used to send off tickets. And, as to the question as to whether or not red-light cameras increase safety, it's unclear, since there are many contradictory studies, reports MSNBC.

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