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South Carolina Legislature Shuts Door on Photo Enforcement
Legislative commission in South Carolina rejects return of speed camera enforcement.

South Carolina capitol
The South Carolina legislature put the final nail in the coffin of photo enforcement earlier this month. Both the state House and Senate last year had unanimously approved legislation making it clear that automated ticketing machines were illegal in the state. As part of a compromise, state Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) dropped his opposition to the bill in exchange for the creation of the South Carolina Traffic Enforcement Commission, which he hoped would draft a report he could use to convince his colleagues to give photo ticketing a second chance.

The nine-page report dated January 13 had no interest in restoring the speed trap that had operated in the town of Ridgeland in defiance of state law. The commission included the top members of the legislature and judicial branch along with representatives from police agencies and the legal profession. The composition of the committee, set by Davis in his amendment language, did not invite any members of the public to participate. The body was asked a series of twenty questions, most of which presumed photo enforcement would return.

"Assuming that traffic enforcement camera systems are used to enforce uniform traffic laws, is there a way to ensure that traffic enforcement camera systems are being used to improve road safety, and assuming that their use improves road safety, rather than maximizing government revenues resulting from violations of uniform traffic laws?" one of the legislated questions asked.

The commission's members did not accept the loaded questions' premise. Once the members finally met they agreed that private, for-profit law enforcement was not a good idea.

"Pursuant to item (4) commission recommends no changes to the existing law concerning the use of traffic enforcement camera systems," the commission concluded.

Existing law expressly forbids the use of red light cameras and speed cameras. In rendering its judgment, the commission focused on the many legal and constitutional problems with photo enforcement.

"No matter who was driving the car at the time, the owner of the car is assumed to be guilty," the committee report stated. "This violates a major tenet of our legal system: innocent until proven guilty... The commission concedes that, properly calibrated and properly operated, photo radar systems may be accurate. However, photo radar, like any radar, can generate false readings, and similar cases are contested and litigated all the time. While technological improvements are likely, the system will never be completely without flaws."

The group found fault with the notion of mailing tickets to vehicle owners because by the time they receive the notice, they may not remember the incident, putting them at a disadvantage if they wish to challenge a photo ticket.

A copy of the report is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Report and Findings (South Carolina Traffic Camera Enforcement Commission, 1/13/2012)

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