State Law Dulls Teeth On Red Light Citations - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

1/22/08

State Law Dulls Teeth On Red Light Citations

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More than 70% of red light camera tickets in Lubbock are being paid, but there is still an $18,000 deficit. 

Director of Public Works Marsha Reed says Lubbock's collection rate is similar to what other cities are seeing, but NewsChannel 11 wanted to know how that compares to tickets issued by police officers.

Municipal Judge Robert Doty tells us between 85%-90% of police issued red light tickets are paid.  So, red light cameras only bring in between 15%-20% percent less.  

The real difference is in what happens if you don't pay up. "We've got the bigger teeth with the warrant," Doty said. 

If a police officer catches you running a red light, you're looking at a fine of up to $229.

"If they do not deal with it in a timely manner, it will go to warrants, and then they're looking at the possibility of being put in jail," Doty said. 

Not so with a red light camera citation. Texas capped fines at $75, and Judge Doty says it could never lead to an arrest warrant.

Lawmakers put strict rules into place regarding penalties for not paying a ticket. Senate Bill 1119 says the local authority cannot give the information to a credit bureau and it won't show up on your driving record.

"State law does allow us to withhold vehicle registration; that's something we would be willing to pursue, and I believe the council would be willing to pursue after the one year time frame that they had originally put on this program," Reed said. 

Senate Bill 1119 says the county assessor-collector or the Texas Department of Transportation may refuse to register a vehicle with an unpaid citation, but it doesn't say they have to.

"We have made some initial contacts and the county is open to it, because they are the ones that actually have to do it, so we would just have to pursue that," Reed said. 

Judge Doty says the city could also use a civil lawsuit to collect. Any other incentive must also stay on the civil side of the law.

"You can't got to the criminal side; the state law simply will not allow it," Doty said. 

Reed says if council decides to keep the cameras, they'll decide whether or not to officially move forward with discussions to withhold vehicle registration.

Citizens Group Recommends Red Light Cameras Come Down
No more time is needed to take the cameras down. That is the recommendation the Citizens Photographic Traffic Signal Enforcement Committee plans to give Lubbock City Council.

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