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Federal judge rules on traffic camera use in South Carolina

In a ruling this month, a federal judge from Charleston, South Carolina dismissed a lawsuit filed by drivers that received speeding tickets based on photographic evidence from cameras installed in Ridgeland. A new state law that prohibited speeding tickets based on traffic cameras alone sparked the lawsuit. In addition, the new law requires officers to deliver speeding tickets to accused drivers by hand. After the passage of the law, traffic citations against three drivers in South Carolina were dismissed.

A private company working with local law enforcement supplied the cameras, which were installed along Interstate 95. Some say the recent ruling provides a precedent for other South Carolinian law enforcement agencies to begin "out-sourcing" traffic citations to private firms, potentially targeting both residents of the state and visitors traveling on its roads.

Ridgeland officials, in response to the state law prohibiting camera use in traffic citations, argued that a nearby officer stationed in a recreational vehicle monitored their cameras. The new law, according to officials, only applied to cameras that were unmanned, usually automatically issuing citations to drivers through the mail.

An additional development spurred by the new law is the formation of a committee that will evaluate the legal and ethical implications of a camera-based traffic citation policy, which is scheduled to publish a study in early November.

While the recent ruling seems to allow some forms of camera-based traffic tickets in South Carolina, most will have to wait for the study's results and further legislation to determine the true legality of such tickets issued within the state.

Source: islandpacket.com, "Judge dismisses traffic camera lawsuit," Patrick Donohue, Oct. 19, 2011

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