[JURIST] Judges for the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] on Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] that the City of Chicago's use of mounted cameras that take pictures of motorists running red lights or making illegal turns does not violate equal protection or due process. More than 200 so-called "red light cameras" have been installed in the Chicago area [Chicago Sun-Times report] since 2003, and a photographed violation results in the mailing of a $90 fine to the owner of the vehicle. Three automobile owners claiming they had received fines for the actions of other drivers using their cars filed suit against the city, claiming that the system punishes owners rather than specific drivers. They also argued that the system violates due process and equal protection, and that it generates citywide revenue rather than acts as a law enforcement mechanism. The court dismissed all of the plaintiffs' arguments, holding:
A camera can show reliably which cars and trucks go through red lights but is less likely to show who was driving. That would make it easy for owners to point the finger at friends or children - and essentially impossible for the City to prove otherwise. A system of photographic evidence reduces the costs of law enforcement and increases the proportion of all traffic offenses that are detected; these benefits can be achieved only if the owner is held responsible.The court also held that there is no fundamental liberty interest in running a red light or being seen by cameras on public roads.
Red-light cameras are used in more than 20 states in the country, spurring similar lawsuits. Last month, a class-action suit was filed in federal court against the City of New Orleans [WDSU report], claiming the use of red-light cameras is unconstitutional. A similar lawsuit was filed last month against the City of Dallas [KBTX report].