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Sharing the Road with Traffic Cameras? Know Your Rights

Posted on in Traffic Violations

dupage county traffic lawyerLast month the Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments concerning Chicago’s ordinance allowing the use of traffic cameras fixed at traffic intersections as a means of enforcing running red light violations throughout the city. An issue in the case was whether the City of Chicago had legal authority to enforce the ordinance, which had been created in 2003, prior to the date when Illinois legislatures delegated power to municipalities to make these automated traffic laws. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a final decision on this case in the upcoming months.

This case illustrates, at least for now, that Chicago’s red light traffic camera ordinance and those like it are a reality for Illinois drivers. The case also leads many Illinois residents to wondering about their legal rights concerning automatic traffic violation enforcement.

Illinois Law Concerning Automated Traffic Cameras

According to the applicable statute,“An automated traffic law enforcement system is a system, in a municipality or county operated by a governmental agency, that produces a recorded image of a motor vehicle's [Illinois Traffic Code] violation…” Illinois state legislators delegated authority to local governments to develop and utilize automated traffic law enforcement systems throughout the state.

Drivers’ Rights in Counties with Automated Traffic Systems

Illinois law concerning the use of traffic cameras has some limitations. First, the law prevents automated traffic law enforcement systems from recording the speed of a motorist for the purpose of issuing a ticket.

Second, unless pedestrians or bicyclists are nearby, the Illinois statute prevents the automatic enforcement system from issuing a ticket to motorists who come to a complete stop at a red light prior to entering the intersection.

Third, the law provides additional protections to motorcyclists whose vehicles may be too small to be accurately recorded by the cameras. The law prevents governments of small counties or municipalities (less than 2,000,000 inhabitants) from issuing an automated traffic ticket to a motorcyclist if the traffic light sensor failed to detect the motorcyclist due to the motorcycle’s smaller size or weight or if the traffic system otherwise malfunctioned.

Fourth, Illinois law requires the municipality charging a person with a violation caught on traffic camera to meet specified requirements. The local government must provide the vehicle owner with a copy of the recorded image that captures the alleged violation. Additionally counties using the automated traffic law enforcement camera system must comply with detailed requirements for giving notice to car owners charged with a recorded traffic violation.

It is also important to recognize that failing to pay a citation issued an for automated traffic violation has consequences for Illinois drivers. If the vehicle owner fails to pay the fine or otherwise complete the required traffic education program, and does not successfully oppose his ticket in court, the county may suspend the alleged violator’s driver’s license.

Defenses to Automated Traffic Tickets

There are several defenses available for contesting a citation issued by an automated traffic enforcement system. Aside from alleging that the county failed to comply with the requirements above, the vehicle owner can raise defenses if the vehicle or its plates were stolen or if the driver passed through the red light for an excusable reason (such as to participate in a funeral procession or to yield to an emergency vehicle).

Driving tickets, especially for serious, high point offenses, can be costly and may even put a motorist in danger of losing her license or her liberty. If you or someone you know would like to contest a traffic ticket in Illinois, attorneys at Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. are experienced in contesting different types of driving violations such as violations for drunk driving, driving with a suspended license or speeding. Contact us at 630-472-9700 to schedule a free one-on-one conversation with an attorney about your legal issue.

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