News release from Rep. Andy Holt
NASHVILLE, March 4, 2016—On Friday, Tennessee State Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) announced that he will be asking the Attorney General to step in and deliver an opinion on the practice of using traffic cameras to enforce citations.
“This practice is so predatory it’s not even funny,” said Holt. “City officials and lawmakers know these companies are violating the law, but the almighty dollar speaks louder than the rights of Tennesseans.”
At question is a specific part of Tennessee State law that mandates “only POST-certified or state commissioned law enforcement officers shall be authorized to review video evidence from a traffic light signal monitoring system and make a determination as to whether or not a violation has occurred” (TCA 55-8-198 B(1)). However, Holt says that’s not happening.
Even though state law mandates that no one other than law enforcement may view the video evidence and determine whether or not a violation has occurred, traffic camera companies view the video footage and determine whether or not a violation has occurred well in advance of law enforcement. The companies then send the scrubbed footage back to law enforcement after they have deleted all the instances of violations where they feel the law had not been violate. Police then view this footage a second time to confirm.
“Since when do non-certified, out-of-state (and sometimes out-of-country) employees have the legal authority to determine whether or not the law was violated,” commented Holt. “That would be like you or I saying, ‘Well, I don’t think I ran the red light, so I’m just going to delete the evidence and not send it to police.’ How many times do these employees mess up? When were they given legal jurisdiction over the people of Tennessee?”
Holt said that the companies readily admit to violating this law in their own marketing material.
“Their own commercials say that their employees review the footage to determine whether or not a violation has occurred before sending the footage back to police.”
Holt says that he has spoken with many legal experts, and they all agree that the practice clearly violates state law. If Attorney General Slatery opines correctly, millions of dollars in automated traffic violations could have to be paid back to Tennesseans.
“The letter of the law is quite plain and simple. It doesn’t say ‘a traffic camera company can determine whether or not the law was broken, then forward it to local police to verify.’
It says definitively, ONLY POST-certified or state commissioned law enforcement officers have the legal authority to view this footage and determine whether or not the law was broken. Therefore, they are actually breaking the law twice. Once by even viewing the footage and again by determining whether or not the law was broken before sending it to police for verification.”
Note: The release includes a link to this video advertisement by ATS, which the Holt handout describes as “one of the largest vendors in Tennessee.” There is a reference to company employees reviewing the traffic camera recordings before sending those of suspected violators to local police.