Pushing Coercion of Motorists to the Edge of Legality: NMA E-Newsletter #505

Two states, Arizona and Virginia, require some measure of due process when issuing photo tickets: To be considered a valid citation, the summons must either be handed directly to the accused by a process server or the target must otherwise acknowledge receipt. Without that proof of being served it can’t be verified to the court that proper notice was given, rendering the ticket unactionable.*

That’s all well and good but when much-treasured ticket revenue is at stake, at least one city in Arizona has taken intimidating tactics to a higher level. Here is the bottom half of a City of Mesa photo ticket received recently by an NMA member. It was dropped at his front doorstep. No personal service, just dump and run.

We draw your attention to some of the threatening language, no doubt intended to scare the named party into contacting the court whereupon receipt is confirmed and the ticket is validated.

At the upper left in red ink:

“To avoid paying the cost of being personally served, you must select one of the options provided in this packet. Select a form, complete the required information on the respective form, sign the form, and return it in the envelope provided before . . .”

The aggressiveness in tone is ratcheted up considerably with the language in the lower box:

“If you do not satisfy this complaint by [date] and the Civil Traffic box is checked, notice is hereby given that if you fail to appear as directed in the complaint, a default judgment will be entered against you, a civil sanction will be imposed, and your license will be suspended.”

If you don’t know that the state supreme court ruled that none of this applies unless receipt of the ticket can be proven you would be hard pressed not to respond, thereby putting yourself right in the crosshairs to pay a costly penalty.

Arizona courts allow municipalities to use coercive language up to a point. Many cities like Mesa walk it right up to the edge — an apt analogy for the Grand Canyon State — hoping that drivers will self identify.

The best compendium we have found on the subject is provided by the R&R Law Group in its Arizona Photo Radar Enforcement Defense Guide. Share this information with everyone you know who drives in-state. The most effective way to thwart intimidating ticketing tactics is by knowing the law.


*Again this is only the case for photo tickets issued within the Arizona and Virginia jurisdictions. All other states that permit the use of red-light and speed cameras don’t care if the ticket finds its proper destination or not. If the citation is issued  — whether by mail or folded up as a paper airplane and tossed at your front door — you are on the hook to respond.

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