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Illinois Supreme Court Keeps Red Light Camera Law Alive

Posted on in Traffic Offenses

McHenry County traffic attorney, red light camera law, traffic offenses, Illinois Supreme Court, red light camerasRed light cameras are one of the most noticeable ways in which law enforcement technology affects people's lives. A charitable interpretation of the cameras is that they keep the streets safer and allow police departments to utilize officers to fight more serious crimes. However, opponents of the cameras see the hundreds of millions of dollars that the cameras have brought in, and point out that the cameras are prone to making mistakes, they circumvent ordinary due process, and are just about generating money for the municipality.

Because of these complaints, some opponents brought a lawsuit challenging the validity of Chicago's red light camera system, as well as the state law that authorizes it. The lawsuit made it all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court, but then it ended with more of a whimper than a bang. The Court ended up upholding the law on procedural grounds with a three sentence opinion.

Challenges to the Law

The plaintiffs challenged both the specific implementation of the red light cameras in the city of Chicago, as well as the state statute that authorized it. They alleged that the issue with the way Chicago implemented the cameras was that it exceeded its authority. State statutes place limits on the authority of municipal governments with regard to making decisions about the creation and enforcement of traffic laws. Chicago began using red light cameras years before the authorizing statute went into place.

The plaintiffs also challenged the authorizing statute itself. The issue is that the legislature only allowed eight counties to use the red light cameras: Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Madison, McHenry, St. Clair and Will. The plaintiffs argued that limiting enforcement to these counties was unconstitutional and arbitrary, and that the law would have to apply to all of the counties or to none of them. However, the state defended the limited selection of counties by arguing that they were the counties with the most traffic, and it only made sense to use the red light cameras in such high traffic areas.

The Supreme Court Decision

The Supreme Court ultimately decided to leave red light laws in place for now, but that decision had little to do with the actual merits of either side's arguments. The Illinois Supreme Court ordinarily has seven justices, but for this case two of them recused themselves, meaning that they did not participate in the decision. Justices do not give reasons for their recusal, but it is often done when they fear that they would not be impartial. Despite the fact that only five justices heard the case, they were still required to find four votes to issue a binding decision. Neither side could get that many votes, which means that the decision of the appellate court stands—keeping the law in place.

If you have been charged with a traffic violation such as a red light ticket and would like to learn about your options for challenging it, contact a McHenry County traffic attorney today. Our firm is here to help you understand your rights, so that you can make the best decision for yourself.

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