The state is confident red light cameras are legal. They’ll likely face legal challenges anyway

Several lawyers say they expect to file legal challenges to the state’s new red light safety camera program.
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 5:07 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 21, 2022 at 7:01 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Several lawyers say they expect to file legal challenges to the state’s new red light safety camera program.

But Hawaii officials say similar programs have been upheld by courts in other states.

The new red light safety cameras will take photos of vehicle license plates and issue warnings or tickets to car owners, but not necessarily to the driver who ran the red light.

Some attorneys said that may be unconstitutional.

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“How can you be cited for something that you didn’t actually do?” said attorney Patrick McPherson.

“And you have a due process right to go in and fight it out but how are you going fight a ticket that you have no idea it happened because you weren’t there.”

Back in the early 2000s, attorney Patrick McPherson successfully challenged the highly unpopular van cam program. He thinks the red light safety camera program will suffer a similar fate.

“I don’t think that’s going to fly. I think the judges will dismiss them,” he said.

McPherson also said that a rash of new red light tickets could clutter up the state’s congested court system.

“Let’s say they put a lot of red light cameras up. And all of a sudden the Judiciary grinds to a halt because they’re doing stop sign violations for 97 bucks,” he said.

But the state said similar programs have been upheld by appellate courts in other jurisdictions.

State lawmakers also recently made it clear that issuing citations to owners is legal here.

“Thanks to the Legislature, we’re able to change the rules a little bit,” said Ed Sniffen, deputy director for the state Transportation Department.

“So it’s not necessarily the person who’s driving the car who will be responsible for the violation or for the citation. But the citation goes to the registered owner of the car.”

For now, the state plans to install just 14 cameras in the downtown area under a two-year pilot program. But that could be expanded if the program becomes permanent and one day lead to automated speed enforcement.