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North Carolina House Moves to Save Red Light Cameras
The North Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill increasing red light camera fines in the hopes of saving automated ticketing in the state.

Pryor Gibson
The North Carolina House of Representatives moved yesterday to stem the tide of cities dropping red light camera programs with an 84-31 vote to increase the cost of a photo citation by fifty percent. One-third of the cities that had operated red light camera programs dropped them by late last month when the state supreme court ended years of legal battles over an interpretation of the state constitution. As a result of the final resolution, cities can no longer use red light camera funds to increase local budgets. Instead, they must hand over ninety percent of the gross revenue to the state school system (view ruling).

State Representative Pryor Gibson (D-Wadesboro) introduced the bill to raise the amount of a photo ticket from $50 to $75. His bill also allows cities to deduct $7.50 in expenses from each citation to cover the costs of postage, printing and mailing. These services are already paid out of the typical per-ticket contracts with the for-profit contractors that operate the camera programs. The net result is that a city that pays, for example, $32 to the vendor for every citation it is able to issue, will end up losing only $24.50 per citation instead of $33 per citation under current law. Schools will earn $65.70 per ticket instead of just $45 under current law.

So far, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Greenville and High Point have shut down their red light camera programs after the court ruling made the devices unprofitable. Raleigh is preparing to drop its program. Many of the remaining cities that operate camera programs have not paid the money owed by law to the state schools. Gibson's legislation must be passed by the state Senate and signed by the governor to become law.

Article Excerpt:
Additions to existing law marked in bold type.
Fifth Edition Engrossed 7/27/07

Short Title: Stop Light Cameras in Certain Municipalities.

AN ACT to provide for an increase in the penalty set for a red light violation detected by a camera; to require that the clear proceeds of each penalty collected be transferred to the local school board; to define what Amounts may be deducted from each penalty by a municipality to arrive at the amount of clear proceeds from each civil penalty that must be transferred to the local school board; and to permit a collection assistance fee to be collected from the responsible party if the civil penalty is not paid within a specified time.

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:

SECTION 1. G.S. 160A‑300.1(c) reads as rewritten:

"Section 160A‑300.1. Use of traffic control photographic systems.

(c) Municipalities may adopt ordinances for the civil enforcement of G.S. 20‑158 by means of a traffic control photographic system, as described in subsection (a) of this section. Notwithstanding the provisions of G.S. 20‑176, in the event that a municipality adopts an ordinance pursuant to this section, a violation of G.S. 20‑158 at a location at which a traffic control photographic system is in operation shall not be an infraction. An ordinance authorized by this subsection shall provide that:

(1) The owner of a vehicle shall be responsible for a violation unless the owner can furnish evidence that the vehicle was, at the time of the violation, in the care, custody, or control of another person. The owner of the vehicle shall not be responsible for the violation if the owner of the vehicle, within 30 days after the date of personal service or mailing of notification of the violation, furnishes the officials or agents of the municipality which issued the citation either of the following:

a. An affidavit stating the name and address of the person or company who had the care, custody, and control of the vehicle.

b. An affidavit stating that the vehicle involved was, at the time, stolen. The affidavit must be supported with evidence that supports the affidavit, including insurance or police report information.

(1a) Subdivision (1) of this subsection shall not apply, and the registered owner of the vehicle shall not be responsible for the violation, if notice of the violation is given to the registered owner of the vehicle more than 90 days after the date of the violation.

(2) A violation detected by a traffic control photographic system shall be deemed a noncriminal violation for which a civil penalty of seventy‑five dollars ($75.00) shall be assessed, and for which no points authorized by G.S. 20‑16(c) shall be assigned to the owner or driver of the vehicle nor insurance points as authorized by G.S. 58‑36‑65.

(3) The owner of the vehicle shall be issued a citation which shall clearly state when the penalty is due and the manner in which the violation may be challenged. The owner shall comply with the directions on the citation. The citation shall be processed by officials or agents of the municipality and shall be forwarded by personal service or first‑class mail to the address given on the motor vehicle registration. If the owner fails to pay the civil penalty or to respond to the citation within 30 days after the date the citation is served or mailed, the owner shall have waived the right to contest responsibility for the violation, and shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100.00). The municipality may establish procedures for the collection of these penalties and may enforce the penalties by civil action in the nature of debt.

(4) The municipality shall institute a nonjudicial administrative hearing to review objections to citations or penalties issued or assessed under this section.

(5) The clear proceeds from the citations issued pursuant to an ordinance authorized by this section shall be paid to the local school board. For the purposes of determining the clear proceeds derived from the citations, the following expenses, not to exceed ten percent (10%) of the civil penalty assessed pursuant to subdivision (2) of this subsection, are authorized to be deducted from each civil penalty assessed pursuant to the provisions of subdivision (2) of this subsection:

a. The cost of materials and postage directly related to the printing and mailing of the first and second notices sent to the owner and, if necessary, the driver of the vehicle.

b. The cost of computer services directly related to the production and mailing of the notices described in sub‑subdivision a. of this subdivision.

(6) The municipality may assess a collection assistance fee against the owner and, if necessary, driver of the vehicle under the following conditions:

a. The civil penalty has not been paid within 30 days after the personal service or first‑class mailing of a second notice that the penalty is due. The second notice must be served or mailed no sooner than 30 days after the day the first notice was served or mailed and must contain a notice stating that a collection assistance fee will be assessed if the penalty is not paid within 30 days after the service or mailing of the second notice, the date when the collection assistance fee will be assessed, and the amount of the collection assistance fee. The collection assistance fee shall not exceed twenty percent (20%) of the civil penalty assessed pursuant to subdivision (2) of this subsection.

b. Collection assistance fees shall be placed in a separate fund that may be used only for the purpose of paying for the costs of collection expended to collect civil penalties that remain unpaid 30 days after the service or mailing of the second notice required pursuant to sub‑subdivision a. of this subdivision.

Amounts collected must be credited first to the payment of the civil penalty and then to collection assistance fee.


"SECTION 2. G.S. 160A‑300.1(d) reads as rewritten:

"(d) This section applies only to the Cities of Albemarle, Charlotte, Durham, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Greenville, High Point, Locust, Lumberton, Newton, Rocky Mount, and Wilmington, to the Towns of Chapel Hill, Cornelius, Huntersville, Matthews, Nags Head, Pineville, and Spring Lake, and to the municipalities in Union County."

SECTION 3. Section 1 of this act applies to the Cities of Albemarle, Fayetteville, Locust, Monroe, and Rocky Mount and the Towns of Marshville and Wingate only."

SECTION 3. This act becomes effective September 1, 2007, and applies to offenses committed on or after that date.

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