Road Management & Engineering Journal
February 2, 1998
(U.S. and Canada)
Fax: (360) 335-6402
|(This information is reproduced from the December 1996 "Legal Research Digest" of the Transportation Research Board's National Cooperative Highway Research Program. Photographic Traffic Law Enforcement was written by Daniel T. Gilbert, Nina J. Sines, and Brandon E. Bell. Reproduced here are the introduction, the summary, and a model law included as Appendix G.)|
Automated enforcement of traffic laws and rules using photographs and videotapes can be especially effective in monitoring highway-railway grade crossings, enforcing speed limits, and ticketing red light violators. With numerous law enforcement responsibilities, police are finding it more and more difficult to provide the manpower to enforce traffic laws, especially at such places as railroad grade crossings.
This report will provide a background description of photographic traffic enforcement equipment and a discussion of its application for traffic law enforcement. In addition, this report will serve as a legal reference for legislators, policymakers, and lawyers. Specifically, the report will address the use of manned and unmanned devices to monitor speeding and highway-railroad crossings within the context of the law. The report will also discuss the policies underlying the admissibility of such evidence in court proceedings. Furthermore, the report will provide a comparative analysis of the significant photographic traffic enforcement laws in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. It will examine proposed model rules, statutes, and amendments to maximize the use of photographic and videotape evidence. Appendices A and B contain a research guide for the drafter considering photographic enforcement legislation in his or her state. Appendix F provides representative legislation that a drafter can use as a guide for developing a statute or ordinance within his or her state or local community.
This study also examines those legal issues that are likely to be encountered as photographic enforcement technology is increasingly used in the detection, enforcement, and prosecution of the traffic offender. The legal issues surrounding the use of photographic law enforcement devices in the United States are multifaceted and complex. The following analysis will begin by focusing on the significant evidentiary concerns likely to be encountered in seeking admission of evidence produced by these devices. The study will examine the following: (1) the admissibility of photographic traffic evidence, (2) the existing state laws or ordinances permitting photographic enforcement devices, (3) the specific statutory or regulatory revisions that will be necessary in those states currently without enabling mechanism, (4) the states that prohibit photographic enforcement, and (5) the responses to the constitutional and legal challenges that are likely for those states seeking to implement a photographic traffic enforcement program.
Improving safety on highways, at highway-railroad grade crossings, and at traffic signals requires a multifaceted and multiagency approach. An effective photo-radar program will incorporate aspects of enforcement, engineering, education, and research, as well as promotional and legislative initiatives. Most important, however, law enforcement officials will need an effective tool for prosecuting offenders. They must find the most effective way of using the photographic evidence.
Once a photographic enforcement program is implemented, the admissibility of such evidence will require incorporating the following elements:
An effective photographic enforcement program--whether for railroad grade crossings, red light violations, or speed--may require using available federal funds at the state level.
Jurisdictions considering drafting legislation to implement photo-radar enforcement of traffic laws should find the compilation of state laws and the model provision in the appendices of this report useful.
This example is provided as a research service. It does not purport to furnish legal advice or assistance. Each enacting state must be careful to assure that any law drafted is consistent with the rules, regulations, and laws of the state. Legal decisions on specific issues may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. This outline provides a general synopsis of a photo traffic law.
B. Any restrictive use should be included within the draft
|(a)|| (I) in school zones; or
(ii) railroad crossings, etc.
|(b)||when a police officer is present with the . . . photographic traffic enforcement unit [if required within your state]; (Many states do not require the officer to be present.)|
|(c)||when signs are posted on the highway providing notice to a motorist that [phototraffic enforcement device] maybe used; and|
|(d)||when the use of [phototraffic enforcement device] by a local authority is approved by the local authority's governing body and certifying authority.|
B. Description of photographic evidence
C. Prima facie evidence of speed
D. Rebuttable presumption that registered owner is driver
F. Provisions for summons by mail
G. Penalty provisions