Getting a traffic ticket stinks — getting a surprise ticket in the mail because a red light camera nabbed you running a red light really, really stinks. Red light cameras — automatic traffic enforcement devices that employ sensors to snap photos of vehicles running red lights — are becoming more commonplace, leaving many to wonder if they hold the same weight as regular traffic tickets issued on-the-spot.
The answer depends on your state laws concerning red light cameras and the types of fines or penalties associated with them.
Read on to learn more about red light camera tickets in your state and whether you’ll need to write a check if you’re the unlikely recipient of one…
Red Light Camera Laws by State
Only some states have red light cameras. Among those that do, the laws vary on how and where they can be used. For example, some states fully allow the use of traffic cameras, while others allow them only in certain areas or cities, or on specific types of roadways.
Here’s a complete breakdown of red light camera use, by state.
States That Use Red Light Cameras
Red light cameras are permitted in these states:
- District of Columbia
- Rhode Island
States That Limit the Use of Red Light Cameras
These states permit red light cameras only under certain circumstances:
- Arizona: Cameras must comply with state standards, and cities must have Department of Transportation (DOT) approval to install them.
- Arkansas: Cameras are prohibited except in school zones, railroad crossings, or when a police officer is present.
- Illinois: State law allows the use of cameras, but they are installed only where there is local ordinance authorizing them.
- Iowa: There is no state law regarding red light cameras, but they’re used in some cities by local ordinance.
- Missouri: There is no state law regarding red light cameras, but they’re used in some cities by local ordinance.
- Nevada: Cameras are permitted by state law, but there are none currently installed in Nevada.
- New Mexico: Cameras are permitted, except on state and federal roadways.
- New York: Cameras are permitted only in cities with populations of one million-plus, or by local ordinance.
- North Carolina: Cameras must meet strict specifications and must have warning signs posted.
- Ohio: A police officer must be present in order to enforce red light violations caught on camera.
- Pennsylvania: Cameras are permitted only in cities with local ordinances and populations over 20,000.
- Virginia: Cameras are restricted to no more than one camera per 10,000 residents in a community, with the exception of Northern Virginia Regional Commission communities, where no more than 10 cameras per community are permitted, regardless of population.
States That Do Not Use Red Light Cameras or Do Not Have Laws About Their Use
The following states do not have red light cameras, either because the state hasn’t passed any laws about them and doesn’t use them or because the state has specifically prohibited them:
- Maine (prohibited)
- Mississippi (prohibited)
- Montana (prohibited)
- New Hampshire (prohibited)
- New Jersey (prohibited)
- North Dakota
- South Carolina (prohibited)
- South Dakota
- West Virginia (prohibited)
- Wisconsin (prohibited)
Do You Have to Pay Red Light Camera Tickets?
Whether or not you have to pay tickets issued by automated red light cameras depends on the state laws regarding red light violations and automated law enforcement. When you are issued a ticket, the state law where the ticket is issued is the one that you are held to. For example, if you live in Georgia but get a ticket while visiting Florida, you’ll be bound by Florida traffic laws.
In some states, there are fines and penalties that include points on your driver’s license if you fail to pay or address the tickets. However, other states or jurisdictions do not count automated enforcement violations against your driving record. In these states, attorneys often advise motorists that they can safely ignore red light camera tickets with no consequence because they can’t be enforced.
Additionally, some states and jurisdictions do not engage in reciprocal reporting — meaning that while the violation may not show up on your driving record in the state where you live, a record could be created for you in the state where the violation occurred. Police in the state where the violation occurred would have access to this record, and you could face consequences for any unpaid tickets when driving in that state again.
Below is a look at the various rules, fines, and penalties in states with red light cameras. This up-to-date information was obtained from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
- Alabama: Fines range from $60 to $110, depending on the jurisdiction; red light camera tickets are not listed on criminal or driving records, no points or license suspension issued for failure to pay
- Arizona: Maximum $250 fine and 2 points on your license (same as traditional red light violations)
- California: Base fine of $100, plus additional fees, plus 1 point on your license. NOTE: Red light camera tickets issued within Los Angeles County are not reported to the DMV and do not result in points or license suspension.
- Colorado: Maximum fine of $75; red light camera tickets are not reported to the DMV and do not affect your driving record
- Delaware: Maximum civil assessment of $110; not classified as a criminal offense or placed on driving record. NOTE: The DMV will suspend your license for failure to pay the assessment..
- District of Columbia: Average $150 fine; no points or license suspension for failure to pay
- Florida: $158 fine; no points added to your driving record
- Georgia: Maximum $70 civil penalty; no points or license suspension for failure to pay
- Illinois: Maximum $100 civil penalty or mandatory traffic education program; not considered a traffic violation and no points are recorded. NOTE: Your license can be suspended for multiple failures to pay civil penalties.
- Iowa: Fines range from $65 to $100, depending on the jurisdiction; your driving record is not affected by failure to pay
- Louisiana: Fines range from $100 to $125, depending on the jurisdiction; information is not included on your criminal record or driving record
- Maryland: Maximum $100 fine; not reported as a moving violation or noted on your driving record. NOTE: Your vehicle registration may be suspended for failure to pay the fine.
- Missouri: Fine of around $100; some jurisdictions may place points on your license
- New Mexico: Fines ranging from $66 to $100, depending on jurisdiction; some jurisdictions will allow seizure of your vehicle for failure to pay fines
- North Carolina: Fines range from $50 to $100; no points on your driver’s license
- Ohio: Maximum $150 fine; no points on your license
- Oregon: Considered a Class B traffic violation, with a maximum $1,000 fine
- Pennsylvania: Maximum $100 fine; not considered a criminal violation and not reported on your driving record
- Rhode Island: Fine around $85; not considered a criminal violation and not reported on your driving record
- Tennessee: Fine around $50; not reported on your driving record or criminal record
- Texas: Maximum $75 fine; not reported on your driving record or classified as a criminal offense. NOTE: The DMV may refuse to register a vehicle with an unpaid red light camera ticket
- Virginia: Maximum $50 fine; not reported on your driving record or criminal record
- Washington: Maximum $250 fine; not reported on your driving record
What to Do When You Get a Red Light Camera Ticket in the Mail
If you do receive a red light camera ticket in a state where your driving record will be affected or your license suspended because of failure to pay, you can either pay the ticket or contest it in court — just like a traditional traffic ticket.
How to Pay a Red Light Camera Ticket
As with a regular ticket, red light camera tickets include instructions on how you can pay your fine. The choices are usually to mail in a payment or go to your local court or traffic violation agency and pay in person. Some red light camera tickets also include options to pay online or by phone.
Simply follow the instructions on the ticket, and be sure to note what type of payment methods can be used.
How to Fight a Red Light Camera Ticket
If you believe you did not run a red light or shouldn’t have to pay the fine, you can also contest a red light camera ticket the same way as you would a traditional traffic ticket. You must fill out the back of the ticket, plead innocent, and either mail in your plea or appear for a court date.
Some reasons a court may decide to dismiss red light camera tickets include:
- The driver or license plate number is not clear in the traffic camera photographs.
- You were not driving your registered vehicle at the time of the violation (in states where the driver, rather than the owner, is responsible for red light camera violations).
- The camera was not working properly.
- The red light camera installation did not follow state guidelines for automated traffic enforcement.
If you choose to fight a red light camera ticket, your best course of action is to write a letter of explanation or appear before a judge to explain, rather than hire an attorney. However, you may want to hire a traffic lawyer if your license will be seriously impacted or suspended as a result of a ticket conviction.
Do you have to pay red light camera tickets? Red light camera laws vary widely by state; as a result, they can be somewhat confusing. If you live in a state where red light cameras are permitted by state law, be aware that an unpaid red light ticket may adversely affect your driving record, license, or vehicle registration.