8/7/2014Virginia: School Bus Photo Tickets Violate State Law
School bus mounted ticket camera programs in Virginia ignore state law requiring the issuance of summons and personal service.
A handful of Virginia jurisdictions have allowed a private company to install photo ticketing cameras on school buses. One of these, Rockingham County, in January jumped at the chance to do business with Redflex despite the ongoing federal investigations into corruption. The $250 tickets that the Australian company issues on behalf of the school board are "notices of violation," which do not follow the rules for regular traffic citations.
"The driver of a motor vehicle... who fails to stop and remain stopped until all such persons are clear of the highway, private road or school driveway, is subject to a civil penalty of $250 and any prosecution shall be instituted and conducted in the same manner as prosecutions for traffic infractions," Virginia Code 46.2-844 states.
The law gives a jurisdiction ten days to issue a summons for the alleged violation to the owner of the vehicle that has been photographed, and Redflex promises to mail the ticket within ten days. Unlike a speeding ticket or similar traffic infraction, the Redflex "notice of violation" does not contain a court date when it is dropped in the mail. This does not constitute service under Virginia law according to a May ruling by a Newport News district court judge. In presenting its automated ticketing proposal to the school board last year, Redflex insisted it would strictly adhere to legal requirements.
"Our solution is in compliance to state laws and local ordinances, and we are secure in its ability to be defended against any legal challenges it may face," Redflex vice president Thomas O'Connor wrote.
For running the school bus ticketing program, Redflex takes a cut of between 48 percent and 72 percent of the money collected, depending on the volume of citations. This explicit per paid citation pricing model would be illegal in a red light camera program, but Virginia's school bus camera authorization law omits the language prohibiting such arrangements.
"No locality shall enter into an agreement for compensation based on the number of violations or monetary penalties imposed," Virginia's red light camera statute, 15.2-968.1, states.
Redflex has lost $2.2 million on its school bus program and expects to report even heavier losses to Australian investors later this month. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 73 percent of the school-age pedestrians who have died in a crash near a school bus since 2000 were hit by the school bus, not other motorists.