With a Red Light Camera Ban in Place, Do You Have to Pay an Outstanding Ticket?

Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1631 into law Saturday, banning red light cameras in Texas. But many drivers still have questions about why some cities may be allowed to operate the cameras and whether drivers really have to pay the tickets.

The new ban allows local authorities to operate red light camera systems under the terms of vendor contracts -- until those contracts expire.

The law also eliminates the enforcement mechanism, saying the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles or a county assessor-collector can not refuse to register a vehicle because of an unpaid red light camera violation.

"In general, the reason to pay it is to be able to register your vehicle or transfer the title to your vehicle. However, I don't know how they would enforce it," Dallas attorney Amos Waranch said.

Waranch said it's possible, but unlikely creditors would pursue a lawsuit against someone who didn't pay the fine under the new law.

"These citations are typically for $75 and the filing fee in Justice of the Peace Court is $75. The fee to serve somebody with process brings it up to about $140, so it's probably not economically feasible for the red light camera operators or the city to file civil lawsuits against individuals," Waranch said.

With the new law on the books, individual cities seem to be taking different approaches. Frisco and Plano stopped their red light camera operations over the weekend and said pending citations wouldn't be issued. But, both cities said previously issued tickets should be paid.

Fort Worth and Garland also ended their red light camera programs, but those cities said they would not collect on any citations that have not yet been paid. It's worth noting, if you have paid, the cities are not issuing refunds.

"There's literally nothing compelling you to pay these tickets ever again," said Kelly Canon, who advocated for a red light camera ban. "Welcome to real freedom, people."

Canon joined the opposition to the cameras in 2013 after she received a violation she paid in her home city of Arlington. After she pushed for a local ban in Arlington, Canon took the fight statewide and is considering a national push too.

"You've got one machine giving a ticket to another machine and you're stuck in the middle because you happen to own the car. So, in what universe did that ever really make sense?" Canon asked.

The City of Dallas confirms it turned off its red light cameras on June 1st.

It's not clear how Dallas would handle citations moving forward.

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