Think Photo Radar Is Fair? Think Again.

photo enforcement cameras like those used in Paradise Valley, Arizona

Photo radar violations do not apply to all drivers equally and here’s why. When you get flashed by a photo radar camera, the government initially mails you a sternly worded notice asking you to voluntarily pay a fine. If you ignore the initial notice of violation, the government may serve a complaint on you to compel a response. The initial notice of violation is simply that – a notice. It cannot legally compel you to take action. A photo radar citation (complaint) has to be served upon the driver to have any legal impact.

Service is a formal process by which the defendant is provided notice of the alleged violation. Service is typically accomplished by a law enforcement officer or private licensed process server who delivers the complaint to the defendant. Arizona law requires that service of a photo radar complaint must be made upon an individual person. This is straight forward in most instances because most people drive vehicles registered in their own names. When that vehicle trips a photo radar camera, it is generally very easy for the government to locate the individual driver. If the violating driver ignores the initial notice of violation, it is easy to subsequently serve the complaint. When a vehicle is registered in the name of a corporation, LLC, partnership, municipality, or other entity besides an individual, it is much more difficult to identify an individual to serve. For example, if someone driving a car registered to APS is speeding and trips a photo radar camera, it is nearly impossible for the government to determine who to serve. When the government sends the initial notice of the violation to the corporation, it is typically ignored because there is no recourse. In other words, if the corporation ignores the notice of violation, no one will ever be served and the complaint will be dismissed.

Governments, the same governments that issue the photo radar citations, hypocritically enjoy this free pass on photo radar tickets too. Ray Stern of the Phoenix NewTimes wrote a great article on this topic entitled “Gotcha.” In the article, he presents information detailing how government employees speed without consequence while the everyday private citizen is stuck with fines, license suspension or worse. Stern states, “A detailed review of the violation data provided to New Times following a public records request showed that cities, Indian tribes, school districts, and federal and state government departments were among the ranks of those that ignored violation notices from Scottsdale. The cities of Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa — which use photo enforcement to nail drivers in their cities — each failed to respond to two or more notices mailed by Scottsdale. Chandler responded to one notice and blew off another. While some of these were police cars, most were city fleet vehicles.” Check out the full article in the Phoenix NewTimes here.

Fortunately, it is easy for the private citizen to enjoy the same protection from photo radar violations that the government and corporations enjoy. You can set up your own Limited Liability Company (LLC), name someone else as your statutory agent, and register your vehicle to your new LLC. You can set this up on your own, or Traffic Law Guys can help you set up your LLC and even serve as your statutory agent.