How Do I Contest a Red Light Camera Ticket in New Orleans?

For more than a decade, the City of New Orleans unlawfully ticketed drivers for speeding and red light violations under its controversial traffic camera program and has never paid the drivers a dime back. Despite the municipality owing motorists millions of dollars in overpayments, the traffic camera system is still up and running, making many drivers’ lives a living nightmare. In this article, we’ll show you how to contest a red light camera ticket in The Big Easy.

Flaws in New Orleans’ Traffic Camera Program 

New Orleans’ traffic camera program has been flawed since its very beginning. A review by the New Orleans Office of Inspector General of the automated program revealed that the municipality unlawfully ticketed drivers with little oversight for over a decade.

According to the IG report, the city failed to “prioritize public safety as opposed to revenue generation.” The American Traffic Solutions (ATS), a privately owned company that ran the camera program at the time, had a large incentive to issue as many tickets as possible and pass them to authorities for approval. Each uncontested citation brought ATS from $17 to $23, so the more the citations the bigger the company’s profit was.

It is estimated that in 2017 alone, 402,000 out of 641,000 citations were approved by authorities, which helped the City of New Orleans and ATS rake in $24 million and $6.8 million, respectively.

Because of poor oversight, the municipality got away with several lowball tactics like ticketing drivers for speeding around school zones when schools were out of session or lowering the speed limit around schools without telling drivers first.

Earlier this year, a federal lawsuit was filed against the city to force the City Council to repay $25.6 million in traffic camera fines (plus interest) to a few hundred thousand drivers unlawfully fined during the program’s early years.

Federal authorities concluded that New Orleans’ refusal to pay drivers what they were due following several state court rulings is considered illegal “taking” of property under the U.S. Constitution. So far, the city of New Orleans owes drivers over $35 million in overpayments made between January 2008 and Nov. 3, 2010.

How to Contest A Red Light Camera Ticket

Contesting a red light camera ticket in New Orleans and actually winning is not an easy feat because proving that there was no traffic violation when running a red light is not as straightforward as proving that the school was closed when you were speeding around it.

Authorities will not dismiss a red light camera ticket unless the driver can bring evidence that:

  •         He or she was not behind the wheel when the traffic violation occurred
  •         He or she was not speeding
  •         The traffic lights were malfunctioning
  •         No fair warning of the existence of the traffic cameras was in sight
  •         He or she ran the red light to avoid a rear-end collision
  •         He or she had stopped the car at a red light before the car turned right, but the camera system misinterpreted the incident (In Louisiana, drivers can turn right in an intersection only “after stopping as required” at a red light signal)

You can fight a red light camera ticket in three ways:

  •         In person: You can request a hearing to fight the ticket by specifically writing so on the citation and mailing it back to the address specified on the ticket. Prepare to fight for your case and bring evidence to back up your claims. You might need to bring physical evidence, as photos on a smartphone or are usually not accepted.
  •         By mail: You can send all the necessary evidence and your written arguments by mail (look for instructions on the back of the citation) but do it before an in-person hearing date.
  •         In court: Fighting a red light camera ticket in court has decent odds of success if you have an experienced car accident lawyer specialized in red light cameras on your side. Courts know that the traffic camera system is flawed and is usually very lenient towards potential offenders. For instance, you could dismiss a red light ticket in New Orleans by just proving that the police failed to deliver the ticket within 15 days or to add a declaration to the citation (which is not rare), as required by the law. 

In more complex cases, you may need to prove that you were not driving the car or that there were no visible signs to warn drivers of the cameras. If you plead not guilty, the prosecution will have to prove their case, which they often do not have the time nor the resources to do it. But most drivers believe that fighting a red light ticket in court is simply not worth it unless they owe tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid tickets to the municipality.

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