Recent controversy has surrounded American Traffic Solutions Inc., a private company that has over 3,000 road safety cameras installed across the US and Canada. The issue itself began in 2011, when Eric Arem from Hollywood, FL received a subpoena from ATS when he decided to ignore the first citation he received for an alleged violation of a red-light signal. Armen argued that ATS had no authority from the beginning to issue him a citation. The case went all the way to the Florida Court of Appeals, which has since specified in their ruling that no third-party for-profit vendor has the authority to issue tickets for traffic violations, therefore; only law enforcement agencies can determine whether an infraction was committed and if such issue the notice of violation.
ATS claims that the Florida courts misunderstood the actual role the vendor plays in the issuance of citations. According to ATS, the 12 second footage they receive from the installed cameras at the intersections is viewed by trained technicians at the data center for further monitoring and careful evaluation. If a violation is confirmed the data is sent off for a final review by a law or traffic enforcement officer. If the officer confirms that a violation has in fact occurred, the violation is processed and a ticket is sent to the corresponding individual. The person then has 30 days to respond or pay the fine. Failure to pay during the time allotted will result in a Uniform Traffic Citation (UTC).
If the ruling from the court is upheld, it may lead to many procedural changes across cities and counties of Florida, such as Sarasota and Manatee that are currently using red-light camera systems operated by private companies. This would also open the door for drivers to challenge any pending tickets they have received from companies like ATS and possibly even requesting a refund from the city for those who have already paid the fine in full.
St. Petersburg has already taken the initiative to terminate all affiliation with ATS’s monitoring red-light system for financial reasons. Palm Beach County has also become aware of the problematic situation and has opted to not renew its contract with ATS for several of its intersections. Each county and/or city is said to have individual contracts with ATS and therefore, it is not yet certain if the ruling in the Hollywood case will have any effect on the other red-light camera communities.
In Florida, if you receive a red-light camera ticket you have two options:
- Pay the Notice of Violation and you will not incur points on your driver’s license and it will not be reflected on your driving record. If you fail to pay the notice of violation by the due date, a Uniform Traffic Citation will be issued via certified mail. Failure to pay the UTC might result in the suspension of your driver’s license.
- If you decide to contest or challenge the notice, you can request a hearing. You will be notified of the date, time and location of the hearing. If the notice is upheld, you will be required to pay a fine plus additional fees, incur points on your driving record and your insurance company will be notified. However, if found not guilty, no points will be assessed to your driver’s license and your insurance rates will not go up.