In 2014, Irving resident Russell Bowman received a mail-order fine. Someone in his car had run a red light in Richardson. Four years later, and the fate of that fine and the future of thousands more like it hang in the hands of the Texas Supreme Court.
Bowman, a lawyer, sued Richardson for various violations of the Texas Constitution. Ticketing by license plate without knowing for sure who is behind the wheel, say opponents of these auto-ticketing mechanisms, violates a citizen’s rights. There are also safety concerns, including studies that have shown red-light cameras can actually increase rear-end collisions (they’re sold to cities by the private companies in charge as a way to boost revenue while decreasing accidents).
Bowman won his suit but lost an appeal at the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas. Then it went to the Texas Supreme Court, which heard arguments on Nov. 1. Along the course of the legal proceedings, people have jumped in from municipalities across the state.
In Dallas, the fines cost $75, with a $25 fee if they’re paid late. The city has collected more than $14 million in red-light camera fines since 2007, according to the Texas Tribune.
Whatever the Supreme Court decides will likely have wide implications on how things work here, although, in a recent story, the Austin American-Statesman notes that there’s a chance the court goes more narrow with its ruling. That would mean one of the other pending cases—again, other people have hopped into the fray on Bowman’s side, so there are a handful of cases pending—could “provide another route to determine, finally, whether the cameras are constitutional.” The Statesman has a breakdown of the various cases:
Several of the lawsuits filed by Bowman and Stewart seek to overturn red-light cameras in individual cities based on the alleged failure to comply with the 2007 state law, such as completing an engineering study before mounting the cameras.
Others challenge the constitutionality of the photo-enforcement system statewide, including two appeals Bowman and Stewart argued before the Fort Worth-based 2nd Court of Appeals on Nov. 6.
The case under review by the Texas Supreme Court — Luis Garcia v. City of Willis — is a combination of the two concepts, but one argument in particular could invalidate red-light cameras statewide if the Supreme Court agrees with the premise.
More from the Statesman here. It could still be several months before we get some clarity—a ruling is expected by late June.