This isn't a surprise, right?
Of the 111,000 people caught by red-light cameras in the city of Houston since September, only about 360 have challenged their citations, and only 78 were successful, court records show.
Court and police officials say several possible factors explain the reluctance to appeal and the low success rate. The key, they say, is that the images and video captured by the cameras, which drivers can watch online beforehand, can be precise and compelling in proving violations.
"Once the person sees the tape, they seem to be convinced," said the Municipal Courts' presiding judge, Berta Mejia.
So I figure most people don't bother challenging the citation because they know good and well that they ran the light, as I think most of us do when it happens to us, and most of the rest of them see the evidence and realize they haven't a leg to stand on. Again, what are you going to say?
At least one critic, Houston lawyer Randall Kallinen, said most drivers probably choose to pay the civil penalty, which doesn't hurt their driving records, rather than hassle with a trip to the crowded and busy courts building at 1400 Lubbock.
"It's only $75, so how much trouble will a person go through?" said Kallinen, who has criticized the cameras before City Council.
"A lot of people won't go through the bother."
The most common appeal, a "general denial" of guilt, was the least successful. At least 170 motorists made this claim, and all but four were forced to pay the $75 fine. The most common reason for overturning a citation came when drivers proved that someone had stolen their vehicle. That happened at least 11 times, the records show.
Some succeeded by claiming the time of the yellow light was too short, or that their license plates had been stolen. Others convinced hearing officers that emergencies or other circumstances excused their actions.
"If they don't have the sufficient evidence, then they're probably not going to be found not liable," said Bonita Tolbert, an assistant director at Municipal Courts.
In a few cases, they succeeded by noting that glitches caused the wrong vehicle to be cited. And in at least one instance, someone who ran a light to keep pace with a funeral procession had a citation tossed.