A summary of the major changes to Texas photo enforcement following the enactment of four new laws. Jury trials approved for red light camera tickets.

Governor Rick PerryTexas Governor Rick Perry (R) on Friday signed a series of four bills that place significant limitations on the way in which photo enforcement operates in the state. The new laws take effect on September 1, except for HB 922 which takes effect immediately.

HB 922 (read bill) prohibits municipalities from using speed cameras. Its overwhelming passage in May forced the cities of Marble Falls, Rhome and Chillicothe to drop their photo radar programs. Despite the clear intent of the legislature to put an end to this form of ticketing, however, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is proceeding on a plan to set up its own highway speed cameras. TxDOT waited until the legislature adjourned to discuss its plans publicly. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Carona (R-Dallas), sponsor of one of the new camera limitation laws, accused TxDOT Chairman Ric Williamson of having an "arrogant" attitude toward lawmakers in a February hearing. (view hearing video)

Another new law, HB 1052 (read bill), simply requires municipalities to use warning signs at least 100 feet before any intersection that uses a ticket camera. Thanks to SB 1119 (read summary), those cameras must be removed on September 1, 2009 -- unless the Governor and a majority of the state House of Representatives and Senate agree that red light cameras are useful. More than 100 members would have to change their mind for this to happen. In a recent session, 113 state representatives went on record voting to ban the devices while only 23 voted to support them. The margin is closer in the state Senate where 16 voted against the devices and 14 in support.

Other aspects of this new law include a prohibition on the use of credit agencies to compel payment of citations. Instead, "the Texas Department of Transportation may refuse to register a motor vehicle alleged to have been involved in the violation." Those with out-of-state vehicles could not be compelled to pay. By September, citizens of Texas will also have the right to demand a trial by a jury of their peers to contest a ticket if a city-paid "administrative officer" determines guilt.

The cost of a ticket will be limited to $75, thanks to Senator Carona's HB 1623 (read bill). Those who wait until the vehicle registration renewal date to pay would only be subject to a $25 penalty for each ticket. This law also requires that cities send half of their ticket profit to a state trauma fund and prohibits them from using the remaining share for anything other than public safety programs.

The text of the enacted version of SB 1119 is available in a 90k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Senate Bill 1119 (Texas Senate, 5/29/2007)