Anytime someone gets a ticket in the mail from a red light camera, the same questions run through their mind. Do I really have to pay this ticket? Is that even me driving? How do they know whether that is me? What happens if I don’t pay this ticket? Why do we even have those cameras anyway? There are a ton of rumors out there and plenty of people ready to tell you that you do or don’t have to pay that ticket, but what is the actual answer? Section 707 of the Texas Transportation Code governs red-light traffic cameras but there are certain ordinances that counties adopt that add onto or affect the Code.
What are the Penalties Associated with Red Light Camera Tickets in Texas?
Red-light camera tickets are considered civil violations and are not considered a conviction.* §707.018. The Code provides that the civil penalty may not exceed $75 and the late payment penalty may not exceed $25. §707.007. If you fail to pay your ticket an arrest warrant will not be issued and it will not be recorded on your driving record. §707.019. Additionally, according to the City of Fort Worth’s Red-Light Camera Safety Program, these violations are not reported to your insurance companies or driver’s license bureau.
Let’s recap. If you fail to pay your red light camera ticket:
- No conviction
- No arrest warrant
- Not on driving record
- Not reported to insurance
- Not reported to driver’s license bureau
So far so good. Looks like nothing will happen if you don’t pay the ticket. But wait, there’s more.
Will Failure to Pay Your Red Light Camera Ticket Affect Your Credit Score?
Section 707.003(h) of the Code provides that information of failure to pay a red light ticket cannot be reported to a credit bureau. According to The Dallas Morning News, even the counties, such as Dallas, that had enacted their red-light camera contract before the Texas law went into place in 2007 can no longer report delinquent violations to credit bureaus. This apparently went into effect June 1st after TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax notified the city of Dallas that they would no longer honor the reports of unpaid tickets.
- No credit bureau reporting
Could Failure to Pay Your Red Light Camera Ticket Affect Your Ability to Register Your Vehicle?
There had to be a catch with these red light camera tickets. This is where they can get you. If a driver fails to pay their red-light camera penalty after it is sent to collections, that information may be sent to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and a scofflaw hold, or a vehicle registration hold, will be placed on the vehicle’s registration until all unpaid penalties have been paid. §502.010; §707.017. This does not mean that every county decides to go through the trouble of placing scofflaw holds. As for Fort Worth, according to Fort Worth’s violation information website scofflaw holds will be placed if violation fees remain unpaid. To the contrary, www.trashyourticket.com lists Tarrant County as one of the counties that does not place a hold on your registration. (This information is based on either news articles or reports from people with outstanding tickets). Additionally, since Dallas can no longer report to credit bureaus the plan is to start using registration holds to maintain their red-light camera safety program.
The county assessor-collector is responsible for enforcing these holds, however according to his article “The Wright Stuff” in Taxing News, Tarrant county tax assessor-collector Ron Wright stated that he will “not block vehicle registrations because of unpaid red light camera fines” and even signed a letter to Governor Greg Abbott calling for a ban on the traffic cameras, along with other Texas officials. While this may be a personal decision on Wright’s part, legislature is in the process of making this opinion a law.
Senate Bill 87, sponsored by Texas Senators Bob Hall, Sylvia Garcia, and Donald Huffines, aims to prohibit county assessor-collectors from placing a hold on vehicle registration if the owner is “delinquent in the payment of a civil penalty”, referring to the civil penalty incurred from a red light traffic camera. The bill passed with 30 “yea” votes and one “nay” on March 29, 2017 and it was referred to the House of Representatives Transportation Committee on May 8, 2017. If the bill makes it all the way through, it would render red light camera tickets unenforceable.
- No hold on your registration.
Bottom line: If you decide not to pay your red-light camera ticket, it will not affect your credit score, it will not be reported to your insurance company or the driver’s license bureau, you will not be convicted of anything, and a warrant for your arrest will not be issued, but it is remotely possible that it could affect your ability to renew your vehicle’s registration. However, you have the Tarrant County tax assessor-collector’s word that the registration holds will not be enforced. Thus, there isn’t that much that cities can do to you if you fail to pay your ticket. To register your vehicle, even if you have a scofflaw hold, you must register by mail or in person at a local tax collector-assessor office so that it can be overridden.
Ultimately, it’s your choice if you want to take that risk, but now you have all of the facts in order to make that decision.
*Note that all of the information in this article is referring to tickets you receive in the mail after running a red light with a camera, not a ticket received from an officer. It is vitally important to pay attention to traffic signals and stop at red lights for your safety and the safety of others.