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Use of Red Light Cameras Challenged in Alabama Courts

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Late last week, Federal appeals judges ruled that a lawsuit over the use of red light cameras in Alabama can move ahead in state court. The city of Montgomery and American Traffic Solutions, Inc. were first named in a class action suit back in 2015 that claims the use of red light cameras by the city is illegal. Attorneys are demanding that the program be suspended and that those who have been fined through the use of cameras receive a refund.

21 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands have laws specifically legalizing the use of red light cameras. 10 states prohibit their use, and 19 states — including Alabama — have no law on the subject.

Montgomery and Tuscaloosa were given permission by the legislature to use the cameras on 2010. A similar effort to prohibit red light cameras’ use in Tuscaloosa was unsuccessful in 2015. Tuscaloosa attorney Stuart Albea challenged their use on constitutional grounds, stating that municipalities fining those caught by the cameras have circumvented proper due process.

In upholding Tuscaloosa’s law, County Circuit Court Judge John England wrote that the cameras are permissible because the owners of a vehicle are subject only to fines, not arrest. “The tickets don’t go on the vehicle owner’s criminal record,” he said, “and no negative points are assessed to the owner’s driver’s license.”

Opponents of the technology also argue that the purpose of the devices is not to promote public safety but to boost local government revenue. As of 2016, Florida’s statewide law has increased revenue from traffic violations by over $100 million, giving cities a financial incentive to continue the program. The Tuscaloosa News reports there were 3,574 tickets issued between January and June 2015 and 5,198 during all of 2014 from the nine monitored intersections.