A split in Florida’s 3rd and 4th Circuit Courts of Appeal led the Florida Supreme Court to take up the constitutionality of red-light cameras, which ruled that such cameras were in fact legal under Florida law. The uncertainty surrounding the legality of the cameras had led numerous municipalities to either cancel their red-light camera programs or to decline to pursue them.
Red-light cameras have become common throughout the United States. Municipalities have identified them as both revenue streams and as a way to reduce dangers to pedestrians. However, studies have shown that the presence of red-light cameras, while decreasing the number of pedestrian deaths, tend to increase the number of rear-end collisions due to the tendency of drivers to slam on their brakes at intersections where cameras are present.
The legality of the cameras in Florida is no longer in question, but whether, when viewed in totality, they are a benefit to drivers and pedestrians is still unsettled. The punishment for being ticketed by a red-light camera is a generally a monetary fine that is paid to the city. However, anyone ticketed by a red-light camera still has rights. Any red-light camera ticket can be appealed by the driver if they believe the ticket was improperly issued. What a driver should not do is wait before either paying or appealing. If the ticket is paid or appealed within the time prescribed initially, no points are assessed on the license of the ticketed party. Failure to pay within the prescribed period will generally result in a doubling of the fine.
During the period that the legality of the cameras was in question, several Florida municipalities took the opportunity to rescind their red-light camera programs, having decided that the benefits of the cameras were outweighed by the increase in rear-end accidents. Additionally, municipalities decided that the enforcement of traffic laws – including red-light observance by drivers – should be handled by police officers. But other municipalities decided that the approval of the cameras by the Court simply reinforced their beliefs that the cameras benefitted pedestrians and should be retained.
Regardless of the position of the cities across the state, red-light cameras, if implemented, are legal, and individuals ticketed by them should always consider the validity of the ticket and be informed of their rights.