Red-Light Cameras Do Not Violate the Constitution

I came across an article discussing something that most people dread—that little camera above the traffic light that tickets you!  Apparently a dozen cities and nine states have banned traffic cameras for financial and political reasons.  Although these little devices successfully catch more speeders and produce more tickets, which in turn brings in more revenue, they are expensive.  With the economy being the way it is, it is hard for many states to spend money on such devices.  Further, a lot of voters just hate the device.

What is interesting is that opponents of these small cameras have used the United States Constitution to substantiate their point.  Opponents claim that these cameras violate due process rights and invade one’s privacy.

After the mention of the due process violation, the article goes on to state that opponents feel there is a violation of due process because the cameras “don’t capture images of those who actually are behind the wheel.”  I completely disagree with this statement.  I have gotten a ticket in the mail before because I was caught speeding by a camera.  As I opened the envelope and took out my ticket, the next page displayed a large picture of me in the car, driving.  I was actually shocked to see how focused and clear the picture was.  My face was clearly shown and pictured from a very close angle.  This is why I do not believe the claim that the cameras do not capture the image of the driver.  The close angle and clarity at which those cameras take pictures leave no room for any mistakes as to who the driver is.

Even if the picture was not the best, does this camera really infringe upon our due process rights?  A violation of one’s due process rights would be when a person was deprived of life, liberty or property without going through some sort of legal proceeding.  In our situation, when a person receives a citation, they have the opportunity to go to court and contest it.  A citation by a camera is no different than a citation personally given by a cop on the side of the road.  Both allow individuals the opportunity to have their day in court.  Therefore, I see no violation of due process rights even if the picture was not completely clear.

Additionally, these cameras do not invade one’s privacy.  Now, for an invasion to occur, a person first needs to be in a place where they can reasonably expect privacy.  When you are on the road in your car, you are in a public area.  Photos taken of people in public areas are not seen as intruding upon people’s privacy because people are out and about, not isolated in a private area.

Now, opponents may argue that one has a reasonable expectation of privacy in their own car.  Sure, I can see that point.  However, our individual car is on a public road.  Our individual car has windows where people can see into them.  Our individual car is amongst many other cars.  Overall, our individual car does not constitute a small private world of our own.  Rather, we are just beings in our car, which is on a public road amongst other cars.  There is no privacy on the road.  Therefore, the claim that these cameras violate people’s privacy is without merit.

Even though I am not a fan of these cameras because I have been a victim to them, I do think they are a great idea.  They instill fear in people because people can get caught speeding even if a cop car is not nearby.  Whenever people see these cameras, they tend to slow down.  Drivers who drive cautiously are less likely to get into accidents.  Overall, the roads become safer.  The other side to this is to just implement small measures, like making the time for the yellow light longer so people slow down and have ample time control their speed.  This can have an adverse effect.  With longer yellow lights, more people can attempt to rush though the light by increasing their speed.  This is very risk and likely to result in an increase in accidents.  Rather than people using the extra time to slow down and stop, they will likely speed up and try to beat the light, overall endangering the lives of those around them.

With so many other issues in our world, such as our rising unemployment rates or increase in home foreclosures, I say we leave the little camera alone and let it do its job.  We, as citizens, can the focus on more important issues.

6 Responses to “Red-Light Cameras Do Not Violate the Constitution”

  1. 1 WrongOnRed

    I do not mean to be crass, but have you actually done any research into this topic? Are you an actual JD? Your assertion that photos are taken of the driver, in most cases, is completely false. While that may be the case where you live, that is certainly not the situation on the majority of implementations. In Missouri, and most other states, they ticket the car, and not the driver. They call it “like” a parking violation, disregarding the legalistic differences between malum in se and malum prohibitum offense. We have a specific state statute in Missouri which requires that moving violations be processed criminally and points assessed against a driver’s license. However, because actually prosecuting the driver and adding points would lead to legal challenges (there is no authorizing statute), and would result in less revenue for the municipality and 3rd Party vendor, State Statute is circumvented by calling these violations “civil”, non-moving ordinance violations regardless of the fact that Missouri case law clearly establishes that all ordinance violations are quasi-criminal, and therefore prosecuted under criminal proceedings, with criminal standards applied. What they have done is amended the laws of evidence by rule, which in the State of Missouri, even the Supreme Court cannot do, it is a power solely reserved to the General Assembly, and of course, a 10th Amendment Dillon’s Rule challenge would also say that devoid of authorizing legislation, these robo cams are a no-go.

    That is all not to mention the fact that video or photographic evidence in a criminal proceeding is hearsay, and cannot be primary evidence. I do agree however, that on a public street there is no expectation of privacy, however, the rest of your argument is unsubstantiated opinion which is refuted by just about every academic study on the issue. I would direct you to a great piece in the Washington University Law Review (Jan 2010) called Wrong On Red: The Constitutional Case Against Red Light Cameras

  2. 2 Neha Sareen


    No I am not a lawyer JD, nor is there a requirement to be one in order to write on this blog. I am actually a law student who writes these posts in her spare time.

    I aim for my posts to convey opinions that will encourage others to respond. These opinions are not necessarily mine, rather I write them because I think they will encourage reactions from readers just like you. Thank you for educating all the readers on Missouri’s perspective on the issue. Perhaps I should have clarified, but the views expressed were based off of California.

    Please continue to comment in a manner that educates readers and encourages responses and questions.

  3. 3 oncefallendotcom

    So Neha Sareen is not a real lawyer huh? That explains why her sex offender article on the Legal Bugle was so messed up. You need to do your research, like I have, Neha.

  4. 4 Phillip Allen Wamsley

    What about the money needed to PAY for all of these modern inovations, and how necessary are they. Still there is something about being busted by a computer that just chaps my *%^&($ Then there is this special coating for your license plate which allows some people to get away with it so to speak! Otherwise I have nothing to hide, and if anybody has a problem with public monitering then you better check the VIN # on that car he’s driving!!

  5. 5 Douglas

    Hi! My attention is on the part of privacy that you touched on. Since there is no privacy in your own individual car that you have purchased and conceal what you do inside it. It enables me to walk up to your car and invite myself inside and do as I will in whatever way i would like. Listen, there are homes with windows that are amongst other homes “out in public” with a public road in front of it. There are public stores where u and i attend to shop for clothing where dressing rooms are supplied to try on the clothing for whatever the reason may be amongst other dressing rooms and people. With this being said, I am able to step inside your dressing room and watch u undress at any time because you have no privacy in your on individual small private world of your own. Now when walking on public streets yes you have no privacy, but when you have purchased your on individual item which u dwell in or conduct business in however you do what you do in whatever way is your business. The statement that you make on privacy is has truly been taken out of context. Unless you would like for your privacy to be invaded in all sorts of ways. Just like I don’t want my privacy invaded I highly doubt that you would like it. If your privacy is invaded, your first step will be call the police and seek legal actions. So dont tell others to not capitalize on their privacy which is granted to us in the constitution. Or also within common sense of being human and naturally wanting privacy where they can feel comfortable. This same type of ignorance of not having privacy in public areas, opens the door for those who wish to invade everyone’s privacy. Google takes pictures of people’s houses, anyone can look up your address OF YOUR OWN PRIVATE HOME and displays it on the web for anyone to see. There is also records of where you visit ON YOUR OWN PRIVATE COMPUTER and it is sent out to advertisements, so even in your own home there really is no privacy. Ever heard the expression, “Give the Devil an inch, he’ll take a mile?” I wish you the best of finishing school but make sure when you are making a argument about things that you know the full extent of your argument. Goes to show a lot of people are lacking common sense…laws are there to protect people sure, but many times there are laws to cover up laws in order to protect those in power who want to trample the “little guy.”

  6. 6 admin

    Red light camera tickets may not be constitutional in Florida: “The 4th District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida recently issued an Order challenging the issuing of the tickets as unconstitutional per the Florida Statutes and Florida Constitution.”

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