Texas Law and News Blog

Traffic Control Systems Use in Texas–Defending the Traffic Cam Ticket

The Texas legislature is in the process of considering a bill that will limit the use of electronic cameras to monitor red light violations and speeding motorists. The bill, called HB 113, will also amend the transportation code in order to place limits on municipalities with automated traffic control systems. All motorists in Texas should understand some of the key details about how traffic control systems in Texas operate.

How Traffic Control Systems Work

Cities throughout Texas began to install traffic control cameras in the mid 2000s in an attempt to decrease the number of red light violations and speeding motorists. Traffic cameras are primarily used at intersections in larger Texas cities. When a motor vehicle driver is photographed, a picture of that individual’s license plate is forwarded to the company and a citation is issued. These traffic control systems are important because they attempt to prevent serious physical injuries, fatalities, and even substantial property damage from occurring. Red light cameras are still used despite an ongoing concern about the legality of using these cameras. Likely because the fines for such violations are so low, the state of Texas expects motorists to simply pay fines rather than fight these charges on a constitutional basis. But there are other ways to defend against tickets issued as a result of traffic control cameras.

Ways to Defend Against Traffic Control Violations

Because constitutional challenges are often lengthy and costly, there are several techniques that individuals use most often to defend against citations issued due to photographs taken by traffic control systems. These strategies include the following:

  • The Necessity Defense: Red light cameras do not always capture the reasons why a motor vehicle ran a red light, such as trying to avoid getting into an accident. Some drivers are able to successfully defend against traffic control system photographs by arguing that the individual committed the violation out of necessity. Motor vehicle drivers should not agree to this defense unless they can truthfully say that they were not driving the motor vehicle at the time that the photograph was taken.
  • Object to the Clarity of the Photograph: Red light cameras do not always clearly capture a motor vehicle driver’s license plate or the individual operating the vehicle at the time of the violation. Motor vehicle drivers are frequently able to successfully defend against a ticket by arguing that they were not the driver in the photograph or that the light was not red.
  • A Worker from the Traffic Control Company Does Not Come to the Trial: If an employee from the company that maintains the device does not come to the trial, an individual should object to the photographs being admitted into evidence. If the exclusion of the photographs is granted, there will be no evidence upon which to convict the motor vehicle driver.

The Future of Traffic Control Systems in Texas

If HB 113 passes, there were will be several repercussions for cities in Texas. One of the most significant changes is that Texas cities will no longer be able to use cameras to record information about drivers, license plates, and speed.