Pennsylvania Expands Use of Red Light Cameras to Issue Traffic Tickets

For the past several years, Philadelphia has been the only city in Pennsylvania to install and use red light cameras to issue traffic citations for failing to stop at a red light. However, an amendment to the law last year allowed for its use to expand beyond Philadelphia to other highly populated areas of the Commonwealth. Beginning in early 2014, Abington (a suburb just North of Philadelphia) will be the first community outside of Philadelphia to use this technology. A full article on this can be read here.  The expanded version of the law allows for Pittsburgh and a dozen other communities in four counties (Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Delaware) to make use of this technology.

                Under Section 3116 of the Vehicle Code, a city may use automated red light cameras to issue traffic citations for failing to stop at a red light.  The camera would capture a picture of the vehicle’s license plate. A citation would be automatically generated to the vehicle’s registered owner.  The statute prohibits cameras from taking front-view photos of the vehicle and its passengers.  The statute also prohibits the images captured by these automated cameras from being used for any other surveillance purposes; however it may be used in the course of a criminal investigation, when so ordered by a court.

The penalty imposed if convicted would be no greater than $100.  The statute does not allow for any points to be imposed on the driver license of the vehicle’s owner, nor does this violation become part of the owner’s driving record.  Insurance companies are also prohibited from raising rates based on a violation of this law.

Furthermore, unlike other provisions of the vehicle code, the individual cited is not protected by the ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard, and will be held liable for the fine so long as it is demonstrated that the camera was properly working at the time the picture was taken and the individual cited was, at the time, the owner of the vehicle.  The burden is placed on the individual cited to raise and prove one of the enumerated defenses: 1) the owner was not the operator of the vehicle at the time of the violation; 2) the vehicle was reported stolen at the time of the violation, or 3) the individual cited was not the owner of the vehicle at the time of the violation.

Prior to installing these cameras, the city must seek approval from PENNDOT. If a city decides to make use of these cameras, they must post signs which clearly notify drivers that they are approaching an intersection that makes use of these cameras. Additionally, during the first 120 days of operation, fines may not be issued, but a warning may be sent.