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Texas Attorney General Blocks Speed Camera-Like Devices
Texas attorney general opinion rules out use of laser guns equipped with cameras for issuing tickets.

AG Greg Abbott
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott does not want anything even resembling a speed camera to operate in the Lone Star State. In an opinion handed down yesterday, Abbott denied the request of the city of Plano's request to use handheld laser speed guns equipped with cameras and GPS devices on the grounds that doing so would violate a Texas law that bans automated photo radar devices.

"In construing a statute, our object is to determine and give effect to the legislative intent," Abbott wrote. "Although a common understanding of the term automated may suggest a lack of human direction or control, the statutory definition in subsection 542.2035(b) does not so limit the phrase 'automated traffic control system.' Instead, any handheld laser device will meet the legislature's definition so long as it records the speed of a motor vehicle and obtains the requisite photograph or recorded image."

Plano's interest in the new ticketing devices, at least initially, did not include the mailing of citations. Rather, it was meant to help gather additional evidence during a conventional traffic stop for later use in court. City leaders even convinced state Representative Vicki Truitt (R-Southlake) to bring their request to the attorney general. Truitt saw no problem with Plano's plan, and she has a great deal of credibility on the matter as the author of the speed camera ban enacted in 2007 (view law). Truitt's opposition to speed cameras is rooted in the automated nature of photo radar.

"Such systems remove the discretion that would normally accompany a traditional traffic stop," Truitt wrote to Abbott in August. "Unlike police officers, automated speed enforcement systems cannot make allowances for extenuating circumstances and presume that the owner of the vehicle is the person driving the vehicle at the time of the violation. The legislature was concerned that the accused individual may have been unaware that an infraction had occurred, reducing the individual's ability to prepare and present a complete defense to the charges."

Abbott's more strict interpretation of the law is bad news for Laser Technologies Inc, the private company that had planned to introduce its product into the country's second most populous state. The same unit is used in a fully automated mode to issue tickets in places like the UK. Despite the addition of video evidence, the device has been shown to produce "wild errors" when used with an unsteady hand.

A copy of the attorney general's opinion is available in a 75k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Opinion No. GA-0846 (Attorney General of Texas, 2/28/2011)

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