Photo Radar Tickets

Don’t waive your rights – Read this first!

Did you get a ticket in the mail?

This page will walk you through how to deal with a photo enforcement ticket.

man shrugging because he has no logbook to show

Is it even a ticket?

Learn the difference between a Notice of Violation and a Traffic Ticket and Complaint.

woman looking at photo enforcement ticket

What is service, and has it happened?

Learn about service of process, why it’s important, and how to know if it happens.

truck driver pinching his temple in distress at have no record of his duty status

What are the options for a ticket?

Learn your options after receiving a photo enforcement ticket?

What did you get in the mail?

The Difference Between A Ticket And A Notice Of Violation

There are two types of photo radar documents that you can receive in the mail.

Notice Of Violation

This document will say “Notice of Violation” at the top. A notice of violation is usually addressed to the registered owner of the car. It states that a violation has occurred, but that the police don’t know who the driver is. Because they can’t identify the driver, they don’t know who to issue a ticket to. A notice of violation will include a request that the recipient name the driver. You have no legal obligation to respond to this notice, and certainly no duty to name the driver. Because the city only has 60 days from the date of violation to issue a ticket, if you don’t tell them who the driver is, odds are no ticket will ever issue. 

Traffic Ticket And Complaint

This is an actual ticket. It will say “Traffic Ticket and Complaint” at the top. It will be multiple pages, whereas the notice is usually a single page. When you receive a traffic ticket and complaint, it means there is now a court case involving the named driver. The traffic ticket and complaint will include several coupons outlining various options that you can mail in to the court. We would recommend that you not mail anything to the court until you speak with an attorney. Otherwise, you may unwittingly waive some of your rights.

Notice of Violation Example

Traffic Ticket and Complaint Example

Have you been served?

What is Service of Process

Service of process refers to the procedure through which the State provides a driver formal notice of a photo radar ticket. (When discussing traffic tickets, the “State” is who issues the ticket. Your case name will be “The State of Arizona v. Named Defendant”, even though the ticket may have been issued by the Scottsdale Police Department, for example.) There are rules governing how the State may accomplish service of process, and when the State fails to conform to the rules, we can often take advantage of those errors to get a case dismissed.

How can a ticket be served?

Personal Service

Personal service means that an individual who is licensed with the state, known as a licensed process server, comes to the defendant’s residence and delivers a copy of the photo radar ticket to the defendant. On rare occassions, personal service is accomplished by a police officer serving the defendant. Personal service can technically occur anywhere, it just usually happens at the defendant’s house.

Substitute Service

Substitute service means that an individual who is licensed with the state, known as a licensed process server, comes to the defendant’s residence and delivers a copy of the photo radar ticket to someone of suitable age and discretion who lives with the defendant. What amounts to suitable age and discretion is a little bit of a gray area. On one end, a toddler is not of suitable age and discretion. On the other end, a 16 year old is of suitable age and discretion. Where that line is in the middle is not entirely clear.

Waiver of Service

When you first receive a photo radar ticket in the mail, you will notice that the State wants you to mail something back to the court with your signature that acknowledges you received the ticket. This is known as a “waiver of service”. The State is trying to scare you into mailing something to the court that waives the State’s obligation to serve you. If you mail a waiver of service to the court, the State no longer has to serve you. By waiving service, you also waive any arguments your attorney might have been able to make about you not being correctly served. Things that will be considered a waiver of service:

  1. Mailing anything back to the court about your ticket
  2. Requesting defensive driving school, online, in writing, or otherwise
  3. Making a physical appearance at court
  4. Some courts have considered a phone call a waiver of service

Alternative Service

Alternative service is just what is says – an alternate way of serving a photo enforcement ticket when the standard means of service has proven impracticable. Normally, service may be accomplished in three ways, all described in detail above:

  1. Personal Service.
  2. Substitute Service
  3. Waiver of Service

If all of those methods of service are unsuccessful, the process server may submit documents to the State describing attempts at service, and the server’s belief that further attempts would be impracticable. If the prosecution thinks it important enough, they may file a motion requesting permission to serve by alternative means, and the court will issue an order authorizing alternative service.

To accomplish alternative service, a process server is supposed to do 4 things directed at the last known address of the defendant:

  1. Mail another copy of the ticket by first class mail
  2. mail another copy of the ticket by certified mail
  3. post a copy of the ticket to the defendant’s front door
  4. post a copy of the ticket to the defendant’s garage door if available

See  A.R.S. § 28-1602(E).

Once a process server does those 4 things, the defendant is served. Whether or not the defendant has actual notice of that service is legally irrelevant. Also note that alternative service must be directed towards the last known address of the defendant, usually what is on record with the MVD. So if your address is not current with the MVD, you may never know this happened.

The State has 90 DAYS TO SERVE YOU

The State has 90 days from the date your ticket is filed with the court to serve you. Please note this is not 90 days from the date of violation. You can find the date your ticket was filed with the court by either looking it up online (most courts have some online visibility), or looking on your ticket near the printed signature near the middle of your ticket. If the State doesn’t serve you in those 90 days, and you don’t waive service, the ticket will be dismissed.

Why Is Service Important?

Here’s why service of process is important: Service of process is how the court acquires personal jurisdiction over a defendant. Without personal jurisdiction, the court has no authority to take action against a defendant. If you are not served within 90 days of your ticket being filed with the court, and you do not waive service, your case will be dismissed because the court never acquired personal jurisdiction. If you are not served correctly, and you have not waived service, your attorney may be able to argue that service was improper and get your case dismissed.

Bottom Line On Service –

If you receive a second copy of the ticket by any means – in the mail, on your door, on your porch, whatever – you’ve probably been served. Don’t ignore it at that point, give us a call.

What do we recommend?

We usually reccommend waiting for service.

If you don’t get served within the 90 day service window, the ticket will get dismissed sometime after that 90 days runs.

If you do get served, defensive driving school is usually the best option.

If you get served, we typically advise taking defensive driving school to get the ticket dismissed. If you are not eligible for defensive driving school, or if you’ve been served with multiple tickets, call us and we can talk through what makes sense.

Options After Receiving A Photo Enforcement Ticket

Wait And Don't Respond To The Ticket

The State (the “State” is who issues the ticket, regardless of whether your ticket is from Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, etc.) sends a photo radar ticket in the mail in an effort to save the expense of having the recipient served with the ticket, known as service of process.  Service of process involves a person licensed with the court delivering the ticket to the driver or a person who lives with the driver.  Service of process is a necessary step before the court can take action against the driver, and before the driver is required to respond to the ticket. 

If the driver sends back any written communication to the court (like the coupons that came with the ticket), the driver will waive the service requirement.  Courts may also consider a telephone call a waiver of service, even though that is not legally correct. In summary, a driver can ignore the mailed ticket until it is served (or service is waived).  If the ticket you received is labeled a “traffic ticket and complaint,” the court has 90 days from the date the complaint was issued to serve it.  If the ticket is not served in that time, and the driver does not waive service, the ticket will eventually be dismissed.

Hire An Attorney

If you are dealing with a single ticket, and you’ve been properly served or waived service, there may be little an attorney can do to help. Sometimes though, there is a legitimate argument. Maybe you got the ticket, but you weren’t the driver. That’s a great argument. Sometimes we get to a hearing, and the state is unable to identify the driver. 

If you are facing multiple tickets at once, then an attorney can be a great help. Often, we can negotiate awas some tickets, or get some tickets amended to city code violations that are not reportable to MVD.

If you’re not sure what to do, give us a call and we will talk it through. 

Take Defensive Driving School

You may opt to take defensive driving school if you are eligible (no commercial drivers license, have not taken the class for an Arizona ticket within the last 12 months).  This is a 4 hour class that can be taken online, and upon completion the ticket will be dismissed and no fine will be assessed.  The class costs around $250, and the court receives a substantial portion of that fee. This class can also be taken anytime after you receive the photo radar ticket in the mail, even after the ticket is served, if it is served.  You can go to for a list of class providers.

We usually advise to wait until you are served to take defensive driving school. If you just want to get the ticket behind you and not think about, then you could just take defensive driving school even if you have not been served.

Mail Something To The Court Saying You Weren't The Driver

Mailing something to the court saying you were not the driver will generally NOT HELP. The typical response from the court is “you cannot be excluded as the driver, and you are expected in court.” Not only will the court not accept your assertion that you were not driving, but by mailing in that document you have waived the requirement that the court serve you. In other words, by mailing in that coupon, you have agreed that the Court does not need to serve you, and that you will appear in court to answer the charges (or pay the fine, request a hearing, or take defensive driving diversion).

Now if you’ve already been served, there is nothing to lose by trying this approach.

Request A Service Hearing

If the court is saying you were served, and you have an argument that you weren’t served, then requesting a service hearing could be a good option. Be cautious though, it is very easy to waive service if you use the wrong language or make a general appearance in court. 

If you think you have a service argument, give us a call and let’s talk it through. It could be very helpful to have an attorney if you are going to make a service argument.

Request A Civil Traffic Hearing

Only request a hearing after you’ve been served. If you request a hearing before you are served, then you have waived service.

If you request a hearing, most courts will tell you that you have waived the option to take defensive driving school. 

A hearing is usually not successful unless you have a solid argument, like you can prove you weren’t the one driving.

Constitutional arguments are no longer successful in these cases.

Pay The Ticket

This is probably the worst of the 4 available options.  However, if you’ve been served and are not eligible for defensive driving school, then this is probably your only real option. Unless you have multiple tickets pending, then call us first.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Photo Enforcement Tickets Violate Constitutional Rights?

Regardless of what we think, arguing a constitutional violation in court is no longer a successful argument. In the past, we were occassionally successful with constitutional arguments, but it does not work any more. 

Did Arizona Outlaw Photo Enforcement Devices?

Partially. Photo enforcement devices are no longer legal on Arizon state highways. However, the are legal on city streets. So many cities use them extensively. Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Phoenix, Chandler and others all have photo enforcement devices deployed.

Does looking at a ticket online waive service?

No. You can safely check up on the status of your ticket online without waiving service. 

Now, if you request defensive driving school online, like you can do in Scottsdale, that will be considered a waiver of service.

How Do You Argue That Service Was Bad?

Here are some examples of some fact patterns where service is improper:

  • A process server serves an employee of the driver who does not live at the driver’s home. This might include a cleaning person, a landscaper, or a baby sitter.
  • A process server serves a person who is temporarily visiting the driver’s home. This would include the driver’s friend or relative who is visiting for a week but lives somewhere else.
  • A process server just leaves paperwork on the front porch without talking to anyone or without getting an order for alternative service. Video from a Ring doorbell would be very helpful here.

Our Favorite Argument At A Civil Traffic Hearing

Identity arguments are the best arguments for a photo enforcement case. If in fact another driver was driving, we can present testimony from the driver saying they weren’t driving. Ideally we can also present some other documentation that shows the driver was somewhere else at the time of the violation. Then we present testimony from the person who was driving. This is a very compelling argument. Also, by the time we get to a civil traffic hearing, the city cannot issue a ticket to the actual driver because too much time has passed.

What If The Photo Enforcement Device Was Wrong?

This is extremely rare, especially in speed related cases. We have seen errors in red light cases, but again, it is very rare. As it stands now, cities are very good at administering photo enforcement devices. 

Contact Us

Let’s see what we can do about that ticket.

5635 N. Scottsdale Rd. #170, Scottsdale, AZ 85250

M-F: 9am-5pm, S-S: Closed

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