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Are Speed Cameras in North Carolina Constitutional?

Various States allow speed cameras. Although the use of speed cameras is technically legal in North Carolina, none are in use today. But that could change within a few short years. Even if no officer ever witnessed you speeding, automated camera software could potentially cause you to incur fines and other penalties. Speeding cameras are controversial in many circles for various reasons. Some say that they disproportionately target low-income individuals. Others say that they inherently violate the United States Constitution. What is the basis of this argument?


Do Speed Cameras Violate the Sixth Amendment?


The Sixth Amendment is one of the most important aspects of the United States Constitution, and it guarantees defendants several protections. One of the most important protections under the Sixth Amendment is the right to face your accuser. If someone wants to convict you of a crime in the United States, they must physically appear in court, plainly identify themselves, and testify against you. 


This is why you can never be convicted of a crime via an anonymous tip in the United States. The Sixth Amendment also makes most police reports inadmissible in court. Instead, the police officer who actually wrote the report must appear in court and explain any crimes they personally witnessed. 


A traffic camera is not a “person,” and it is incapable of testifying against you in court. If speed camera footage is the only evidence of an alleged crime, then the Sixth Amendment poses challenges for any authority that wishes to present this evidence in court. If someone was sitting in front of a screen and monitoring traffic through a camera in real time, things would be different. That person could testify against you in court, as they personally witnessed you speeding via the traffic footage. On the other hand, the constitutionality of automatic traffic recording software is dubious. 


How Can a Traffic Camera Determine Who Was Driving?


Traffic cameras can only determine that a vehicle is speeding. They cannot determine who was actually behind the wheel at the time of the offense. Unlike a police officer who can pull you over and ask for your identification, a traffic camera can only record footage of your vehicle’s exterior. This lack of due process also raises constitutional questions. 


The Sixth Amendment is Not a Viable Defense Against Speeding in North Carolina


If speed cameras ever return to North Carolina, the Sixth Amendment would not be a viable defense against citations. The Supreme Court has ruled that issuing citations to vehicle owners is acceptable – even if the identity of the driver is unclear. In addition, the Supreme Court ruled that you can still face an accuser when facing an automatic traffic tickets. In this context, your accusor is the police officer who approved your ticket after reviewing the footage. 


Choose an Experienced Speeding Ticket Lawyer in North Carolina


Although many people raise valid points about the constitutionality of speeding tickets in the Tar Heel State, this argument will not get you far in a DMV hearing. Instead of referring to the Constitution, turn to an experienced speeding ticket lawyer in North Carolina for help. These experienced legal professionals can help you fight your ticket with proven defense strategies. Book your consultation with Coastal South Law today to learn more. 


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