8/24/2016Tennessee Attorney General Reverses Course On Red Light Cameras
Tennessee attorney general flip flops on the issue of whether red light camera companies can review tickets under state law.
In a blockbuster ruling last month, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III held that private companies could not review red light camera images under state law. As every photo ticketing program in the United States outsources ticket review to private contractors, the opinion effectively outlawed camera enforcement in the Volunteer State. On Monday, Slatery backed off after receiving a request from state Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), a major booster of automated ticketing.
"While only POST-certified or state-commissioned law enforcement officers are authorized to review video evidence and make violation determinations, the statute does not prohibit review of the video images from the camera by other persons for purposes other than making a determination that leads to a citation," Slatery wrote in his new opinion. "As long as only a statutorily-designated law enforcement officer, not the vendor, reviews and makes any given determination that results in a citation, there is no violation of the statute."
Slatery attempts to describe Monday's opinion as consistent with the opinion handed down last month by pointing out that the question he was being asked was whether a private vendor could both review video evidence and make a violation determination. The new opinion asserts that private vendors do not, in fact, make any determination of guilt and their review of images is "ministerial."
The July ruling, however, was quite explicit about the unlawfulness of having more than one entity review the video evidence.
"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 in last month's opinion. "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."
The revised interpretation endorses the existing practice of all the red light camera and speed camera programs in the state.
A copy of the new opinion is available in a 25k PDF in the source link below.