7/8/2016Tennessee Attorney General Declares Traffic Camera Programs Unlawful
Ruling from the Tennessee attorney general finds red light cameras and speed camera programs operating in violation of state law.
Tennessee's red light camera and speed camera vendors were sent into disarray on Wednesday after the state attorney general found the systems were being operated in violation of the law. State Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden), a critic of automated ticketing, asked Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III for an opinion on whether it was lawful for employees of a private company to conduct a preliminary review of camera videos before passing it off to a municipality for a final review.
"No," Slatery wrote. "Employees of private traffic camera companies are not POST-certified or state-commissioned law enforcement officers and therefore are not authorized to review video evidence and make violation determinations."
Tennessee's photo ticketing statute includes an explicit requirement that the citation review process be conducted by police. The new opinion strikes at the heart of "turnkey" photo enforcement programs that outsource all of the work involved in issuing photo tickets to private companies like Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions (ATS) and Australia's Redflex Traffic Systems. Slatery makes it clear that this business model is operating outside the law.
"We are not aware of any other Tennessee statute that authorizes employees of private companies to review the video footage for the purpose of determining whether there has been a traffic violation," Slatery wrote. "The statutory language thus contemplates one review process in which the determination is made; it does not, in other words, contemplate sequential reviews. Nor does it otherwise suggest that the role of POST-certified or state-commissioned law enforcement officers is merely to review preliminary violation determinations made by someone else."
This finding is a vindication for Holt, who burned a red light camera ticket in May to raise awareness that ticket payment is essentially voluntary. Supporters of the private ticketing companies slammed Holt over the stunt, claiming he was wrong about the programs being illegally operated. With the new ruling in hand, Holt is calling for refunds.
"In my opinion, each of the individuals who have paid these illegally issued citations must be repaid," Holt said. "It's funny, really. We have these cities and private companies accusing people of violating the law, meanwhile they readily violate the law themselves in order to literally illegally extort hard-earned money from Tennessee citizens and our visitors."
Tennessee is not the only state to find delegation of ticket review to private companies unlawful. The Florida Court of Appeal and several lower courts in the state have arrived at the same conclusion.
A copy of the opinion is available in a 35k PDF in the source link below.