Texas AG Puts the Brakes on Request for New Type of Automated Photo Enforcement

Is a new twist on automated photo enforcement of traffic laws in Texas coming? The Texas Attorney General’s Office says not so fast.

Everyone in Texas should be aware by now that operating a motor vehicle in the state requires the driver to establish financial responsibility before driving on a public roadway.

Maintaining vehicle liability insurance is one of five methods to satisfy that requirement. The other four include surety bonds, deposits with the state comptroller or county judge and self-insurance. Operating a vehicle without establishing financial responsibility is a criminal offense that usually results in a citation from police when discovered during a traffic stop or at an accident scene.

Bowie County, Texas, authorities recently advised the Texas Attorney General's Office they had been approached by a company that utilizes real-time data gathered from law enforcement controlled Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) to identify, evaluate and cite those vehicle owners operating in the state of Texas, who are determined to be in violation of the state's motor vehicle compulsory insurance laws.

Bowie County said the company would provide all the equipment, such as the cameras and the computers, install them and provide training. To make the proposed program work, the county would provide the information from the ALPR system to the company, including images of the car's license plates. That information would be evaluated by the company, and if the evaluation indicated there was an insurance violation a letter would be generated by the district attorney's office to the registered owner of the vehicle advising a fine amount and requesting payment.

Per their proposed agreement, the company would receive 50 percent of the amount collected on a monthly basis.

Before starting such a program, Bowie County District Attorney Jerry Rochelle formally requested an opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in October 2015, on whether Texas law would actually allow a photographic insurance enforcement system.

On Monday, the attorney general's office responded by issuing an opinion that "a court is likely to conclude that counties are not authorized to utilize an automated or similar system to enforce the financial responsibility laws in chapter 601 of the Transportation Code."

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