How To Make Traffic Cameras Legal But Useless

By John Carr, NMA Massachusetts Activist

Pyrrhic victory — A victory where the losses outweigh the gains.

Missouri appeals courts ruled that cities are free to use cameras to enforce traffic law the same as they would use any other equipment.

For practical purposes these decisions killed cameras.

Cities don’t need cameras to write tickets. The police officer recites a standard script and you’re guilty. Replacing officers with cameras makes the case weaker. Is that blurry face behind the sunglasses and windshield glare really you?

Cities need cameras to pump up the volume. Cameras are profitable if computers can look up a license plate and send a bill to the owner instead of a summons to the driver.

In some states they can. Not in Missouri. Appeals courts said only drivers can be held responsible for moving violations. They are entitled to the same legal process as drivers ticketed the old fashioned way. The prosecution has to prove its case, including proving the driver’s identity.

Cities don’t make much money when cameras write real tickets. Some lose money. California cities couldn’t afford to offer a fair trial for $500 tickets.

The other problem with real tickets is that the system takes them seriously. Moving violations turn into license points.

Camera operators hate points. Points make drivers fight tickets. If ordinary people started losing their licenses for breaking the law, they would be angry. They might even vote the bastards out.

Cameras are parasites, staying below the threshold of pain where you call for an exterminator.
Unless the Supreme Court saves them cameras are dead. There’s no profit left.

The most exciting part of the Missouri battle is yet to come. Some people may be entitled to refunds.
Cities could be ordered to pay millions they don’t have. The money is gone. Redflex has it. Maybe after the resulting tax increases residents will vote the bastards out.

Editor’s Note: The photo enforcement environment in Missouri is in flux and evolving rapidly. For more background on what’s going on check here.

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