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Virginia Red Light Cameras: What You Should Know

For over a decade, red light cameras have been an unpleasant reality. They seem to be just about everywhere. Some states allow them; some states do not. Few drivers really take time to know the laws of each state they drive through. So, red light cameras catch millions of drivers every year. The revenue is huge. But are they lawful? Some states say no; some states say yes. Here is what you need to know.

Where are red light cameras?

Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) maintains a website where you can get all the information you need regarding your own state. According to GHSA, there are 24 states with red light cameras in use, yet only 21 states have laws expressly permitting them. Virginia, in particular, allows one camera per 10,000 residents, and citations cannot exceed $50 per offense. According to Virginia law, the driver and/or the owner of the vehicle can be held responsible. Yet it must be enacted pursuant to a local ordinance. Therefore, each municipality has the right to create its own procedure and method for putting red light cameras in place.

Who is promoting the use of red light cameras?

Not surprisingly, some of the strongest arguments in favor of red light cameras come from American Traffic Solutions, the largest manufacturer of red light cameras in America. According to their claims, traffic deaths have decreased by 21 percent, at least in part due to the installation of red light cameras. These claims are somewhat specious, as increased police enforcement, public service announcements about the dangers of drunk driving, and the advent of ride-sharing have all likely contributed greatly to the cause. Nevertheless, the industry is strongly advocating for cameras.

Where in Virginia will you find a camera?

It is difficult to track all the cities that use red light cameras, as they change frequently. However, a few cities stand out due to involvement in recent litigation. Here are just a few of the big legal battles that have ensued in recent years:

City of Hollywood, Florida v. Arem

In 2014, a Florida appellate court was asked to determine whether it was legal for a private vendor to issue citations to the public based on photo-based evidence. The answer was a resounding no. State law does not grant the authority for a local municipality to outsource the review and enforcement of traffic violations to a third-party private vendor. This case continues to offer grounds for Floridians to attempt to vacate red light camera violations.

Norfolk Case

According to news reports from Norfolk, a Sailor named David Butler had his ticket thrown out because the yellow light timing had been shortened on the very day he was cited for a red light infraction. The judge specifically called into question the seemingly not-so-coincidental circumstances surrounding the red light citations at that intersection.

What to do if cited for a red light infraction

First, if you receive a citation, do not automatically just send payment to the city, unless you absolutely know you are guilty and do not care about paying the citation. On the other hand, do not follow the advice of some websites on the Internet. One site in particular is advising people to simply ignore their ticket because it cannot be enforced. This is a mistake. While yes, there is a chance that the enforcing municipality may have an unconstitutional ordinance in place, this is a difficult analysis to make without competent legal representation.

If you receive a citation, contact Simms Showers, LLP to discuss your options. Our firm represents criminal defendants and those suffering personal injuries in Leesburg, Loudoun County and throughout northern Virginia.

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