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Texas Bans Use of Red Light Cameras

Many Texas residents’ first experience in dealing with a traffic violation came as the result of a red-light camera. These devices automatically capture images of people who allegedly speed through red lights. But over the years, the use of these devices have raised serious ethical and constitutional concerns.

In response to this growing opposition, the Texas legislature recently passed House Bill 1631, which effectively bans the use of such cameras throughout the state. Although the bill became law immediately upon Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature, some Texas jurisdictions may continue to maintain their existing cameras for now. But no municipality may approve a new red-light camera program going forward.

Evidence from Cameras No Longer Admissible Evidence of Traffic Violations

HB 1631 adds two new provisions to the Texas Transportation Code. The first, Section 707.020, states a local authority “may not implement or operate a photographic traffic signal enforcement system with respect to a highway or street under the jurisdiction of the authority.” The Texas attorney general may take legal action against any municipality that violates this provision.

The second provision, Section 707.021, states a municipality may not any civil or criminal charge, or a citation, for any traffic violation “based on a recorded image” produced by a red-light camera.

Both of these provisions are now in effect. The Texas Constitution normally states that non-appropriations bills only come into force 90 days after the legislative session adjourns. But the legislature can elect to have a bill take immediate effect, provided each house approves the measure by at least a two-thirds vote of its members, which was the case with HB 1631.

Some Cities May Keep Cameras in Place for Now

But as noted above, even this “immediate” ban on red-light cameras will not actually stop the use of all such systems in Texas. HB 1631 contains language stating a local authority that previously adopted a red-light camera ordinance and entered into a contract with an outside vendor to provide the actual cameras prior to May 7, 2019, may continue to use that system until the contract expires. This also means that the local authority can use any evidence gathered from such cameras in a civil or criminal proceeding under the rules that existed prior to the addition of Section 707.021.

However, this exception to the ban also has its own exception. If a municipality’s red-light camera contract contains specific language authorizing termination of the deal “on the basis of adverse state legislation,” then the exception described in the paragraph above does not apply. For example, the City of Sugar Land had such a clause in its red-light camera contract. As a result, the City said it “turned off” all of its cameras on June 2, and its vendor was in the process of removing all related equipment from the city “at their cost.”

But in other Houston cities, red-light cameras may stay on for several more years. Houston Public Media noted the City of Stuebe has a contract with its red-light camera in place thru 2024. A city spokesman indicated there was no adverse-legislation clause and Steube would “keep their cameras running” for several more years.

Speak with a Houston Traffic Violations Defense Attorney Today

The City of Houston ended its use of red-light cameras several years ago. But neighboring cities may still have such systems in place. If you have been cited for a traffic violation as the result of one of these remaining red-light cameras and need legal advice from an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates. Call (713) 802-1631 today.