Civil Liberties Win as Texas Bans Red Light Cameras

Francis Folz | @FrancisFolz

On Saturday, June 1st, Governor Greg Abbott announced that Texans will no longer need to fear being ticketed by the state’s countless red light cameras because of a bill he signed over the weekend that will ban their usage.

For over almost two decades now, civil liberty proponents have vilified the use of red light cameras because of the threat they pose to Constitutionally protected 4th and 5th amendment rights. The concerns red light cameras’ present to our 5th amendment are often less brazen to the American public than the threat to our right to privacy.

Our 5th amendment articulates the negative rights everyone has when faced with criminal or civil prosecution. One of the amendment’s guarantees is due process, which includes the legal basis that all people accused are innocent until proven guilty. The problem with most red light cameras is that they don’t prove who ran the traffic light, just that someone ran the light.

Under such a system, the burden of proof is shifted onto the accused, where they must prove that they did not break the law. Since the 5th Amendment also protects defendants from testifying against themselves, it is nearly impossible to prosecute someone for a red light camera violation constitutionally.

Governor Abbott took to Twitter to proclaim his legislative victory for the public good. He posted a video in which he stated that he was signing a bill banning red light cameras. Next, he held up the act with his signature on it, indicating that the bill “[was] now law.”

Texas state rep, Republican Jonathan Stickland spoke with the local media reiterating the constitutional concerns these cameras produce saying “Number one, privacy concerns. We think that the right to due process matters. You have the right to face your accuser in court.”

He’s correct, yet another frequently overlooked danger these traffic cams pose are the potential for abuse. Reasonably, the state could use these cameras to track the movements of any individual as they freely travel. This is an often unspoken privacy prospect that must be confronted as our technology capabilities increase.

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