Fifth Circuit Green Lights Red Light Cameras in New Orleans

By Robyn Hagan Cain on June 18, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

New Orleans drivers lost their due process challenge to the city’s red light camera policy last week, reports The Times-Picayune.

The plaintiffs sued to challenge New Orleans’ Automated Traffic Enforcement System Ordinance, which permits the city to use automated cameras to detect speeding violations and cars entering an intersection against a red light. A district court concluded that the ordinance affords constitutionally-adequate due process, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

New Orleans engaged American Traffic Solutions (ATS), a private contractor, to install and maintain the cameras traffic cameras in the Crescent City. ATS staff view the footage and forward potential violations to the New Orleans Police Department, where officers then decide whether to issue a citation to the vehicle's owner.

When police decide to cite a vehicle owner, the owner receives a notice detailing the amount of the fine, as well as the date, time, and location of the violation. The notice also includes images from the video recording of the violation, and a website address where the full video can be viewed.

The notice explains procedures for contesting the fine, and procedures for payment by mail, telephone, or through the website. The owner may contest the violation by appearing before an administrative officer on or before a hearing date stated in the notice.

An administrative officer employed by the city presides at the hearing, where the vehicle owner may "respond and present evidence on all issues of fact involved and argument on all issues of law involved." The owner can filed for judicial review of an adverse decision in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court within 30 days.

The Fifth Circuit concluded that the ordinance does not subject plaintiffs to the "risk of an erroneous deprivation" of due process. Though the plaintiffs claimed that the hearing officers who preside over traffic camera challenges are not neutral, the Fifth Circuit noted a presiding official's being an employee of the municipal executive does not alone offend due process

The Fifth Circuit similarly rejected the due process claim, finding that the New Orleans ordinance afforded constitutionally adequate process.

If your client wants to challenge the New Orleans red light cameras in court, consider attacking the ordinance's distribution of burdens of proof and the potential liability for allowing another person to drive one's vehicle; the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals explicitly stated that it had not considered those elements of the law in the plaintiffs due process claim, reports

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