Local Gov't Around GA

Local Governments Continue to Exceed Authority With For-Profit Speed Cameras

Local governments across Georgia continue to exceed their authority under state law when it comes to the already contentious speed cameras placed in school zones.

The placement of privately-owned speed detection cameras in cities across the state are helping municipalities generate revenue with no effort or investment while private businesses profit off of otherwise criminal traffic offenses.

As the prevalence of these cameras has grown, however, so has the scrutiny under which they fall. But that scrutiny has not stopped municipalities and county governments from operating outside of what is permissible under Georgia law.

How It Works

These particular speed zone cameras can only be used in a school zone. Drivers who exceed the speed limit during school zone hours or by 10 mph during any other period are captured on camera. Unlike red light cameras, which depict a picture of the driver, speed zone cameras snap a photo of only the license tag with a remotely operated device, which uploads to the private company’s database. The private company issues a violation notice, collects the payment, and sends a split to the municipality or county. 

The violation is not a criminal violation but rather a civil matter handled nearly entirely without law enforcement with ultimate repercussions including a vehicle lien by the Georgia Department of Revenue. A certified peace officer must approve the violations within 60 days of the image capture and the signature of that officer, the badge number, and the logo appear on the Notice of Violation sent to the vehicle owner. The individual usually has 35-45 days from the issue date of the violation to pay the fine.

When the fine amount is collected, the split goes between the private company and the local government, which sometimes includes a school system, and the government keeps somewhere between 55% and 75% of the revenue, depending on the contract with the private entity. 

Municipalities are bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in some places and, oftentimes, having a minimal impact on speeders because the speeder does not receive the violation notice until several weeks after the alleged speeding incident occurred. 

Where Local Governments Are Getting Out in the Weeds

Under Georgia law, a driver who receives a violation notice may either 1) pay the violation or 2) dispute the violation. If disputing the violation, the motorist must obviously provide information that the car was stolen at the time of the violation (if that was the case) or provide a signed affidavit disputing responsibility. State law refers to it as an ‘affidavit of non-responsibility,’ in which the motorist attests that the individual was not driving the car at the time of the incident. For example:

A teacher was in the classroom teaching at the time of the violation occurred on her vehicle or an individual was in the hospital at the time of the violation. 

The extent of the law reads that an affidavit must only be a sworn statement that the individual who was assigned the violation was not actually the person driving the vehicle.

But local governments and these private companies, like Blue Line Solutions and Red Speed LLC, are trying to force people into disclaiming who was driving the vehicle at the time of the violation, obviously in an effort to reassess the violation and collect the revenue. However, Georgia law does not permit them to do so. 

Most recently, the City of Griffin’s pre-printed Affidavit of Non-Responsibility made its way around social media. 

Georgians, however, are not required to complete a pre-printed affidavit prepared by the local government and owners of vehicles have no duty to provide additional information – or require that information – in exchange for the dismissal of the violation. 

Georgia law is clear: testifying under oath in open court OR submitting to the court a sworn notarized statement that he or she was not the operator of the vehicle at the time of the alleged violation is sufficient to rebut the violation. 

The code section specifically states that the code section “shall be determined based upon a preponderance of the evidence,” or it is more likely than not, that a person was driving at the time of the violation. If a teacher can prove she was in the classroom at the time of the violation or an individual can demonstrate that he was in the hospital at the time of the violation, that is sufficient to rebut the violation under the law. No further information is needed or required. 

There are other ways in which motorists can demonstrate that they were not the driver of the vehicle, but the O.C.G.A. 40-14-18(b)(4)(A) does not indicate require drivers or vehicle owners to do anything other than testify under oath or provide the sworn affidavit that they were not the operator of the vehicle at the time of the violation. 

You can read other TGV News coverage on these cameras here.

Nothing in this article should be construed to be legal advice.

Limits on Policing for Profit Circumvented in GA Cities with Outsourced Traffic Citations
Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast.' Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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