10/15/2013Texas: Camera Company Uses False Threats To Extract Ticket Payment
Red light camera company falsely threatens license suspension over unpaid red light camera tickets.
American Traffic Solutions (ATS) is threatening Texas vehicle owners with drivers' license suspensions if they fail to pay up when a red light camera ticket is sent in the mail. Under state law, the company cannot make good on its threat. A red light camera ticket fine is $75, or $100 if not paid within thirty days. To encourage payment, ATS includes a brochure with the citation that purports to describe additional consequences of not sending in a check immediately.
"What if I don't pay by the due date?" the notice asks. "There may be late fees assessed or penalties such as registration hold or suspension of your license if the violation is not paid by the due date."
The notice, sent to a vehicle owner for a citation received in the city of Burleson, includes a notation at the bottom that says "TEX," which suggests the brochure is specific to Texas (view brochure). It does not, however, accurately describe the consequence of nonpayment under state law. It would be unlawful for the city of Burleson or ATS to attempt to suspend any ticket recipient's license or affect his driving record in any way. The company also may not affect the vehicle owner's credit score.
"If the owner of the motor vehicle fails to timely pay the amount of the civil penalty imposed against the owner, an arrest warrant may not be issued for the owner; and the imposition of the civil penalty may not be recorded on the owner's driving record," Texas Code Section 707.019 states. "A local authority or the person with which the local authority contracts for the administration and enforcement of a photographic traffic signal enforcement system may not provide information about a civil penalty imposed under this chapter to a credit bureau."
Under the law, it is also up to the discretion of the county assessor whether to put a hold on vehicle registration over an unpaid citation. Most counties will allow registrations if the vehicle owner comes to the office to renew in person, according to Byron Schirmbeck, the Texas activist who runs trashyourticket.com.
"Red light cameras have always been about the money," Schirmbeck told TheNewspaper. "Every new piece of evidence we find continues to prove it. Why should those that claim to be enforcing the law be allowed to use illegal scare tactics with false threats simply to increase their profit margin? Any city or camera company that has been using these blatantly fraudulent notices should be prosecuted for mail fraud."