10/23/2015Virginia Attorney General Shuts Down School Bus Cameras
Opinion from Virginia attorney general confirms that school bus cameras have been illegally mailing citations to motorists.
For-profit companies may no longer put cameras on school buses for the purpose of mailing photo tickets in Virginia. That was the ruling of Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) earlier this month in a formal opinion earlier this month in response to an inquiry from the Albemarle County attorney. The formal opinion concluded that the school bus photo ticketing program has been violating state law.
Several local jurisdictions in the commonwealth have been anxious to use school bus cameras to issue high volumes of $250 tickets to motorists often confused by the rules for when they must stop when a school bus flashes its red lights. When a driver approaches from the opposite side of a "divided highway," he does not need to stop. The confusion arises over what constitutes a divided highway. When the Virginia General Assembly approved these tickets 2011, it did not define the term. It also forgot about the most important element of any photo ticketing program -- the mailing of citations.
"Prior to enactment, the initial bill authorized the mailing of a summons to an alleged violator, but this language was not in the bill that was ultimately enacted into law," Herring explained. "By a statute of general application, Section 19.2-76, summonses executed by law enforcement officers must be executed in person."
The state's red light camera law includes a specific exception allowing the sending of a ticket by first class mail.
"It must be assumed that the General Assembly chose its words with care in enacting the two statutes," Herring wrote. "Because one statute authorizes mailing summonses while the other statute does not for a comparable offense, the General Assembly must have intended the absence of legal authority in the second statute to mean exactly that: Section 46.2-844 does not authorize any official to mail a summons for passing a stopped school bus."
Herring went on to list a number of other violations where state law clearly authorizes the mailing of a summons, proving that lawmakers are aware of the correct wording. A similar issue affects red light camera citations. Although state law allows the mailing of a citation, the citation still cannot be enforced unless it is personally served. That means red light ticket may be thrown in the trash without consequence, as long as it is not properly served.
The state Senate passed a bill by a 20 to 18 vote to eliminate the requirement for personal service, but a House of Delegates committee explicitly voted to deep-six the legislation, preventing it from becoming law.
A copy of the ruling is available in a 150k PDF file at the source link below.