Photo Enforcement FAQs
NOTICE: It has been brought to our attention that fraudulent emails are circulating to citizens claiming to have photographed their vehicle. The emails go on to mandate the citizen either open an attached zip file which will infect their computer with a virus or to send money and/or gift cards. We want to ensure you that these emails are in no way associated with the City of Boulder Municipal Court or American Traffic Solutions. IF YOU GET ONE OF THESE EMAILS, PLEASE DELETE IT IMMEDIATELY. DO NOT OPEN THE ATTACHMENT. We will NEVER email you directly about a photo enforcement violation. We do not have access to that information. For information on photo enforcement procedures, please click on Photo Enforcement Citation FAQs below.
What if I am not the person driving the vehicle at the time of the violation?
If you are not the driver pictured, you have the option to identify the actual driver by completing the Affidavit of Non Reponsibility on the reverse side of the document. You must include:
- the full mailing address for the nominated person in order for the nomination to be accepted
- submit a legible photocopy of your driver's license
- return the completed form with the copy of your driver's license in the envelop provided by the response date.
If the city determines from this information that you were not the driver, your Notice of Violation will be dismissed and a new Notice of Violation will then be issued to the appropriate party.
Do I have to nominate the person driving the vehicle?
You are not required to nominate the driver in order to have you violation reviewed, provided you submit the required documentation.
What happens if I nominate another person?
The nomination affidavit information is reviewed by the city. If it is accepted, the Notice of Violation will be issued to the individual you nominated.
If I don't nominate another person can the Notice of Violation be reissued?
Yes, if the city is able to identify the driver the Notice of Violation can be reissued. This occurs most frequently when a motor vehicle is registered to more than one person, and the incorrect owner is issued the original Notice.
My brakes malfunctioned or my speedometer is broken. Is this a defense to my violation?
No, as with any traffic violation, equipment malfunction is not a defense.
The roads were really slippery at the time, and I felt that it was safer to go through the intersection than to brake and stop in the middle of it. Can I get my case dismissed?
No, weather and/or road conditions are not a legal defense to a traffic violation. The law (and good driving practice) requires you to drive at a speed that is appropriate to the weather and other road conditions, even if that speed is below the legal limit. In adverse conditions, you should drive slowly enough to stop for a red light. Electing to go through the red light because of snowy, icy, wet, or sandy roads is still a violation.
I was driving a heavily loaded truck and could not stop for the red light. Isn't this a defense?
No. The law requires that the driver of a vehicle drive at a speed that permits the vehicle to be operated in compliance with all applicable traffic laws. This includes driving at a speed that will enable a driver to stop for a red light, taking into account the longer stop times and distances associated with heavy vehicles.
I was behind a large truck that blocked my view of the light/school zone light. Will the prosecutor dismiss my case?
The law requires that the driver of a vehicle drive in a manner that permits the vehicle to be operated in compliance with all applicable traffic laws, which includes driving behind a large truck, SUV, or bus at a sufficient distance to see traffic lights.
Doesn't photo red light/radar violate my constitutional rights?
Automated vehicle identification systems ("photo enforcement") are authorized by both the State of Colorado (C.R.S. §42-4-110.5) and the City of Boulder (Boulder Revised Code section 7-4-74). Both laws have been upheld against constitutional challenges. Further, Boulder's photo enforcement program has always been operated in compliance with state law.
Are there any valid defenses to a photo red light/photo radar violation?
The only valid defense is the "Necessity" defense. This defense has multiple conditions that must be satisfied in order to be valid. If you think you have a Necessity defense, come to court on your scheduled court date to discuss it with the prosecutor.
What is the goal of automated speed/traffic enforcement?
The goal of Boulder's program is straightforward: to reduce red light/speeding violations and, as a result, decrease crashes, prevent injuries, and save lives. Since their implementation in 1998, photo enforcement has contributed to dramatic reductions in red light running at the intersections where cameras are operational and aggressive speeding in photo radar enforcement zones. Fewer violations should translate into lower crash and injury rates among drivers, passengers, other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. The cameras have the added benefit of enhancing traffic safety while promoting community policing.
Are these programs effective?
Yes. Cities using these systems consistently report safer roads with fewer intersection collisions. Documented evidence of photo enforcement's safety benefits has been recorded in the U.S. and around the world, reinforced by new reports and studies showing that cameras lead to significant decreases in intersection violations and crashes.
Isn't the main purpose to make money?
No. The objective of the photo red light program is to improve intersection safety.
How Red Light Cameras Work
At red light camera intersections, there are metal sensors embedded in the pavement underneath the crosswalk (in the area of the gray bars on the diagram, below). These sensors are not activated until the light turns red. If a vehicle crosses the stop line after the light turns red, these sensors will detect the vehicle and trigger the camera(s).
I am positive that the light was yellow when I crossed the stop line. Why did I receive a citation?
The cameras are set up with a slight delay, so that no pictures are taken until the light has been red for a short time. While it may have appeared to you that the light was yellow when you were photographed, the system does not permit such a result.
Is this technology really reliable and accurate?
The Boulder Municipal Court has conducted extensive evidentiary hearings and determined that red-light camera technology is scientifically reliable and legally admissible in Boulder Municipal Court cases. Click here for a copy of the Court's ruling(s) on the admissibility of photo red light evidence.
Where are the Photo Red Light cameras located?
Photo Red Light cameras are located at the following intersections:
- 28th Street and Arapahoe Avenue
- 28th Street and Canyon Boulevard
- 30th Street and Arapahoe Avenue
- 27th Way and Baseline Road
- 47th Street and Valmont Road
- Table Mesa Drive and North Foothills Highway
Photo radar combines a camera, radar, and a computer that records the date, time, speed and location of the violation. The system is mounted in an unmarked van that may move to any school zone or neighborhood having trouble with speeding.
Although photo radar uses the same Doppler principle as traditional radar, its unique feature is that it transmits a very narrow beam across the road, thereby eliminating the risk of tracking two vehicles at once. Also with photo radar, the offending vehicle is tracked much closer to the photo radar unit.
In Boulder, the photo radar vans are positioned at the side of the road. A radar beam is transmitted from the unit in the van across the roadway immediately preceding the photo radar van. When a vehicle enters the radar beam at a speed higher than the threshold speed established for the program (currently 10 mph or more over the posted speed limit), the camera is activated and takes a photograph of the vehicle, which includes an image of the driver. A second camera takes a picture of the license plate of the vehicle. The computer system captures the speed of the vehicle and then transmits information regarding the speed, date, time and location of the violation to a data box. This data box is then superimposed on the photograph of the vehicle.
Why are speeders allowed a 9 mph buffer?
This provides a reasonable margin of error for inaccurate vehicle speedometers and short term lapses of attention by otherwise law-abiding and generally cautious drivers. Boulder's focus is primarily on intentional, aggressive, and negligent speeders. Statistics tell us that at 10 mph over the posted speed limit, the probability of being involved in a crash doubles. At 20 mph over, the probability increases to 11 times greater. We are trying to change the driving behavior of those who are most likely to cause crashes.
How and when is the speed detection system calibrated?
As required by Colorado law, the radar unit that detects speed is calibrated annually at the State's Meteorology laboratory. In addition, the photo radar technician performs tests on a regular basis to ensure the system is operating correctly.
Couldn't the radar beam have detected a vehicle near mine?
No. The beam on these units is very narrow and so could not have picked up a nearby vehicle. Also, if two vehicles happen to fall within the beam at the same time, it will not be able to detect the speed for either vehicle.
I have read the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and believe that the speed limit where my violation occurred is set too low using MUTCD criteria. Shouldn't my case be dismissed?
No. The City of Boulder is a "home rule" city and is not required to follow the MUTCD.
I don't believe the school zone light was flashing when my violation occurred. What should I do?
You may come to court on your court date and discuss this with the prosecutor. However, officers conducting speed enforcement in school zones are generally very careful about making sure that the lights are flashing before beginning their enforcement. This may well be a factual issue that can only be decided at a trial.
What is a red light violation?
A red light violation occurs when a vehicle fails to stop before the stop bar on the roadway after the signal light has turned red.
If there is not a stop bar, the driver must stop the vehicle before the marked crosswalk. If there is not a stop bar or a crosswalk, the vehicle must stop before the "intersection" begins.
If I am already in the intersection when the light turns red, will I get a citation?
It is illegal for your vehicle to enter the intersection after the light has turned red. This is true even if you have passed the stop bar or the crosswalk. If you enter the intersection on a green or yellow light - to make a left hand turn, for instance - you will not be ticketed by the camera system.
How long is the yellow light?
In Boulder, the minimum length for a yellow light at intersections with red light cameras is 3.0 seconds, which is also the national standard.
When a violation occurs, who receives the citation and how it it issued?
A Notice of Violation is issued to the registered vehicle owner, as determined by the photo of the license plate. The Notice of Violation is sent via first class mail. Most notices are mailed within seven days of the violation date. A final notice is mailed to the same address by first class mail 20 days later if there is no response to the first notice.
Where do you get my address?
When a photo red light violation is issued, the license plate that is pictured is tracked through motor vehicle license plate registration. The address on the registration is used to determine where to mail the citation and to whom it is issued.
What happens if I moved and/or did not receive the citation?
If you moved since obtaining your license plates and did not update your address with Motor Vehicle Registration at your county's Clerk and Recorder Office, or if you believe that you may have received a citation but did not receive a notice in the mail, you can call the Boulder Municipal Court at 303-441-1810 and ask if there is a ticket for your license plate number.
Colorado Revised Statute §42-3-113(7) states whenever any person moves to a new address, he or she has 30 days to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of both the old and new addresses. As indicated above, notification is made to your county's Clerk and Recorder Office.
What if I receive a citation for a vehicle I previously sold?
The registered owner must complete the back of the Notice of Violation and send it to the address indicated with any two of the following: bill of sale, cancellation of insurance for the vehicle, or cancellation of plate registration with the DMV.
The license plates on my vehicle were stolen, what do I do?
First, report it to police department. Then, follow the instructions under Affidavit of Non Responsibility on the back of your notice including a copy of the filed police report is beneficial.
What if I was driving a rental car, fleet vehicle, or someone else's vehicle?
The registered owner will be sent notice of the violation. The registered owner at that time may "nominate" the actual driver and the citation can be re-issued to you. The citation will not be dismissed simply because it was issued to a business or public agency. Most rental car agencies simply pay the citation and then charge the fine back to the person to whom the car was rented at the time the violation occurred. They frequently add an additional service fee.
If you were driving someone else's vehicle and believe you may have received a photo enforcement ticket, you can call the Boulder Municipal Court at 303-441-1810 and ask if there is a ticket for the license plate number of the vehicle you were driving for the relevant date and/or location.
If the ticket is located, you can pay the ticket and avoid additional fees or charges. Once the citation is paid, the case is closed. Alternatively, you can acknowledge that you were the driver of the vehicle and set the case for trial.
Will I receive points on my driving record for this violation?
No. Photo enforcement violations are zero point Traffic Infractions that are not reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
How will the photo enforcement citation affect my insurance?
It will not affect your driving record in any way. Since these violations are not reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles, your insurance company is not aware of them.
Can I go to traffic school?
No, you cannot go to traffic school in lieu of paying the photo citation.
Can I plea-bargain the citation?
No. Plea bargains generally result in the reduction of points associated with a traffic violation. Since there are no points associated with a photo enforcement citation, no plea bargain offers are made. The fine amounts are fixed amounts established in the ordinance creating photo enforcement violations; therefore, they cannot be reduced.
What if I receive a ticket from a police officer for the same violation?
This is rare, but it does happen occasionally. In most situations, the violation written by the officer is dismissed provided you bring the matter to the attention of court staff.
What happens if I do not respond to the notices mailed to me?
Failure to respond to the notice will result in personal service of the Notice. This is similar to a police officer stopping you and handing you a traffic ticket. If personal service is accomplished, an additional charge of $60 will be added to the violation costs. Served in person (SIP) fees are not waived, for the reasons stated above.
Once the Notice has been personally served, you must pay the amount due (including SIP fee) indicated on the notice prior to the court date, or you must appear in court as scheduled. If you fail to appear for court, you will be found guilty by default, assessed applicable fines and fees, and your case will be referred to a collection agency, which increases the amount due by 25 percent. Failure to appear for court is also a separate violation that may result in a warrant for your arrest.
How to Pay a Photo Enforcement Citation
You must pay by the response date in your Notice of Violation or Summons and Complaint using one of the following methods:
- Pay online: Pay a Photo Enforcement Ticket Online using a MasterCard/Visa.
- Pay by phone: Call 866-790-4111 and pay using a MasterCard/Visa.
- Pay by mail: Follow the instructions on your Notice of Violation. The Boulder Municipal Court accepts payment via personal check, money order, cashier's check or MasterCard/Visa. If you are paying by check or money order, make it payable to "City of Boulder" and be sure to reference the notice number located on the top right side of the payment stub. Please do not send cash through the mail. Mailed payments should be sent to:
City of Boulder
Photo Enforcement Program
PO Box 742503
Cincinnati, OH 45274-2503
- Drop-off payments: You may pay by dropping off your payment in the drop box located at the parking lot entrance across the street from the Boulder Municipal Court. Acceptable forms of payment are personal check, money order, cashier's check or MasterCard/Visa. If you are paying by check or money order, make it payable to "City of Boulder" and be sure to reference the notice number located on the top right side of the payment stub. Please do not drop off cash in the drop box.
- Pay in person: You may pay in person at the Boulder Municipal Court from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Acceptable forms of payment are personal check, money order, cashier's check or MasterCard/Visa. Cash is also accepted for in-person payments only.
If personal service of a Penalty Assessment Notice is required due to lack of response from the registered owner of the vehicle, an additional $60 fee will be added to cover the actual cost of police officer service. Non-payment after a notice has been personally served will result in referral to a collection agency and will increase the amount owed by an additional 25 percent. Failure to appear for court is a separate violation that may result a warrant being issued for your arrest.
How to Contest a Photo Enforcement Citation
When you appear in court:
Bring your driver's license (a copy will be made for the court file).
Bring a copy of the Notice of Violation you received.
By setting your case for court, you will be waiving personal service and will be required to sign a form stating such.
Court costs are not assessed on Photo Enforcement cases.
Failure to appear for court is a separate violation that may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.
Failure to appear for court will default a guilty finding, assess applicable fines, and result in the referral of your case to a collection agency, which increases the amount due by 25 percent.