Although red light cameras and photo speed vans work to enforce traffic laws, being caught violating a traffic law by one of them is drastically different than being pulled over by an officer. You will still be issued a citation if caught by one of these Automated Vehicle Identification Systems (AVIS), but the damages to your wallet and driving record will be much more manageable.
Are red light cameras and photo speed vans legal?
Yes. Red light cameras and photo speed vans are entirely legal in Colorado pursuant to C.R.S. 42-4-110.5. However, the State of Colorado and the majority of municipalities in Colorado do not use them. In 2019, only nine municipalities in Colorado were utilizing this form of traffic control: Boulder, Colorado Springs, Commerce City, Denver, Fort Collins, Greenwood Village, Lone Tree, Pueblo, and Sheridan. Although the law does not require that a law enforcement officer be present at all times when a red light camera is being used, a law enforcement officer must be present at all times when a photo speed van is being used.
How will I know if there is a photo red light or speed van being used?
The municipality must have signs posted in a noticeable place which notify drivers of the use of these traffic control devices a certain distance prior to the area in which these devices are being used. For photo speed vans, the sign must be 300 feet before the area in which the photo speed van is detecting speeds, and for red light cameras the sign must be between 200 feet and 500 feet before the intersection in which the red-light camera is being used.
How will I know if I am caught violating a traffic law by one of these devices?
Drivers will often know if they are caught running a red light or speeding due to the bright flash that the cameras use to get a clear picture of the driver and the license plate of the vehicle. Then, within 90 days of the violation, the municipality must mail you a citation. This citation will be mailed to the address your vehicle is registered under with the DMV. The citation will commonly include: a photo of the driver of the vehicle, a photo of the license plate, the amount of the fine, how to pay the fine, and information on how to dispute the violation. If the violation is for running a red light, the citation will also include information on how to view a short video of the violation which the red-light camera captured.
How much can I be fined if I am caught violating a traffic law by one of these devices?
The fines you can receive if caught violating a traffic law by one of these devices is set at a specific amount by law. For a red-light camera, the maximum penalty is a $75.00 fine. For a photo speed van, the maximum penalty is $40, but this amount can be doubled if in a school zone.
What happens if I do not pay the fine?
If you do not pay the fine within the time period specified on the citation, you may be personally served with a copy of the citation which will include a date you must appear in court. This means a process server will track you down and physically hand you the documents. If this occurs, then the municipality is able to charge you for the cost of the personal service (in Denver, this is a minimum of $29.00). The process then becomes somewhat like a civil case and you will be required to respond to the citation and appear in court. If you do not respond to the personally served citation, a default judgment could be entered against you and the citation may be sent to collections.
Will I get any points on my license?
No. By law, no points can be assessed for a violation of a traffic law if the violation is caught by an Automated Vehicle Identification Systems. The only real consequence of being cited by an Automated Vehicle Identification System is having to pay a fine.
What if I was not the person driving my car when a violation is caught by one of these devices?
If you are not the driver of the vehicle which was caught violating a traffic law by one of these devices, then you need to inform the issuing municipality when you receive the citation in the mail. The citation you receive will have information regarding this situation and you may be required to provide some evidence that you were not the person driving. If the photo of the driver included with the citation is clearly not you, then a photo of your driver’s license may be all the evidence you need. Although the citation will ask that you provide the contact information of the individual who is driving the vehicle, you are by no means required to provide this information!
What if I want to fight my citation?
If you want to fight your citation in court, it is always a great idea to hire an experienced Colorado attorney. A lawyer whose expertise is dealing with traffic violations will be aware of the ins and outs of the law surrounding these types of citations, and know what exactly needs to be done to successfully fight the citation. Wade H. Eldridge has been representing individuals charged with traffic offenses for the majority of his career. He has successfully beat traffic tickets ranging from careless driving to speeding 50+ MPH over the posted limit. If you or a loved one are issued a traffic citation and are worried about the consequences, contact Wade H. Eldridge, P.C. today!