Photo radar tickets may not be worth the paper they’re written on

DENVER – FOX31 Denver caught photo radar vans running red lights, speeding, and parking illegally on sidewalks all across the metro area, but no matter how many times FOX 31 Denver confronted the Photo Radar van operators they continued to break the law to enforce the law, and the van operator’s seem to think they can disregard our questions.

So how would you like to disregard your photo radar ticket?

Criminal Defense attorney, Gary Pirosko says it’s easier than you might think.

“People believe it’s a legal process and they would get in trouble if they didn’t respond and that’s not the case,” he said.

Pirosko has a history of fighting photo radar. He challenged the legality of photo radar and successfully stopped Denver’s program back in 2002, but only temporarily.

Still, Pirosko knows the best way to get out of a photo radar ticket, he says just don’t pay the notice that arrives in the mail.

That’s right.

The mailed “notice of violation” may look official, even downright threatening.

But according to Colorado State Statute 42-4-110.5, photo radar tickets are not valid unless it is personally served  and that means physically handed to you.

“And personal service doesn’t include being mailed a copy. It means actually being handed a copy,” he said.

Pirosko also says the city only has 90 days to personally serve your citation.

“If they can’t hand it to someone within those 90 days the ticket has to be dismissed and never filed again,” he said.

To avoid being “personally served,” Pirosko recommends you don’t answer your door to strangers.

“That’s good advice no matter what the circumstances,” he said.

If you live in a different jurisdiction than where you got your photo radar ticket, Pirosko says you’re probably even less likely to get served, “if the city has to spend $50, $60, $70 dollars or more to collect on a $40 ticket, it’s not going to be worth it for the city to pursue you,” he said.

And here’s something else you should know: photo radar enforcers can’t give you a ticket if you are going 25 miles per hour or more over the posted limit because driving that fast is a criminal offense and the ticket has to be issued by an actual police officer.

So, ironically, the most dangerous drivers don’t get caught by photo radar, while people going 10 miles per hour over the limit pay the price.

To be clear, FOX 31 does not condone speeding.

According the Denver Police Department (which oversees the photo radar program):

  • The total revenue collected from the photo radar program in 2010 was $3,652,193.28
  • The city of Denver only spent $36,750 to “personally serve” those tickets.

Pirosko says the numbers show an overwhelming majority of drivers are paying the mailed notices even though they are not required to by law, “there’s not a disclaimer on those notices that says you don’t have to respond to this, “ he said, “and there’s a reason for that, it’s a money making cash cow for the city.”

We sent the Denver Police Department a list of questions including, “If the statute says drivers have to be physically served a photo radar ticket, why should they pay the notices they receive in the mail?”

The Denver Police Department did not answer those questions or agree to do an on camera interview, but sent us a statement which says in part, “The purpose of photo radar is to reduce speeds, especially in safety zones, such as school zones.”

Still, drivers we talked to say they rarely see photo radar vans in school zones, construction zones or residential areas, instead they’re parked illegally on sidewalks near heavily travelled roads like University boulevard, Santa Fe, and 6th avenue.

But Pirosko says if you don’t like the Photo Radar vans there is something you can do about it.

He says the photo radar program would stop in a flash, if it started costing the city too much to collect.

If you don’t pay the mailed “notice of violation,” you won’t lose any point on your license, you’re driving record will not be effected and your car cannot be booted.

If you ignore the mailed notice and the city manages to track you down to “personally serve” your citation—you will be charged a fee of at least $25 for that “personal service as well as the cost of your ticket.

Other ways to get out of a photo radar ticket:

  • If you are not the pictured driver, mail in a clear photo copy of your driver’s license and the city will dismiss your ticket.
  • The city has to be able to identify the violator (driver) if the notice is sent to a leasing company (for a leased vehicle) or a corporation name (fleet vehicle) you are not obligated to pay.
  • You are under no legal obligation to identify the driver.