Red Light Tickets

Many drivers have questions about red light tickets. Generally, these questions are both about how camera red light tickets differ from traditional red light tickets and about a drivers legal requirements with respect to red lights and intersections.

The law

While every state will have it’s own specific red light statutes, most are like to share the same two basic elements:

  • A requirement that motorists stop on a red signal and do not enter an intersection.
  • Some kind of mark or point on the roadway signifying a stopping point.

If you have been issued a red light ticket, there is almost certainly some evidence-either testimony from a police officer or a photo from a camera-indicating that, at the time you passed the designated stopping point at the intersection, the traffic signal in question was in its red phase.

Camera red light traffic tickets vs. traditional red light tickets.

Traditional red light tickets are issued by enforcement officers who personally observe a violation of the local red light law. These are generally treated and subject to the same procedures as other typical moving violations such as speeding tickets and stop sign tickets.

Camera tickets are far from a traditional traffic ticket. Red light cameras are devices designed to take a snapshot of a vehicle that enters an intersection after the light has entered its red phase. As of May 2009, red light cameras are used in more than 400 communities in the United States. Major cities that use red light cameras include Albuquerque, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle,Washington, DC and Baton Rouge.

Depending on the particular technology, a series of photographs and/or video images will show the vehicle in question just prior to entering the intersection and at the time or right after the vehicle enters the intersection. Tickets are typically mailed to owners of violating vehicles.

The fact that tickets are typically mailed to owners of the vehicles is a big distinction between red light camera tickets and traditional red light tickets. In most jurisdictions, the red light ticket will be treated like a parking ticket. Parking tickets can only be issued to the registered owner and do not attach to or put points on any individual driver license.

A local attorney may be able to help if you have questions about this topic.