Do You Really Have to Pay Your Texas Red Light Camera Ticket?

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There are plenty of reasons why you might not want to pay your red light camera ticket. Maybe you object to red light cameras on principle, maybe you don’t think you really ran the red light, or maybe you just object to handing over your hard-earned money.

If you got your ticket in Texas, you might have more options than you think.

Before you get out your credit card or checkbook, think through these questions to make sure you really have to pay that ticket.

If I don’t pay, will the debt be sent to collections?

Yes. Your unpaid red light camera fine will eventually be sent to a collection agency, and you may begin receiving collections calls.

If that sounds like too much hassle, you might consider just paying the ticket.

If not, read on!

Will the ticket show up on my driving record?

No. By state law, unpaid red light camera tickets cannot be reported on the vehicle owner’s driving record and an arrest warrant cannot be issued.

Will I be able to renew my vehicle registration?

If you fail to pay your ticket, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles or your local county assessor-collector can refuse to register the vehicle allegedly involved in the violation. This is known as a “scofflaw block.”

If you try to renew online directly through the DMV, your registration will be blocked. But if you go to the county assessor-collector office in person, you might be in luck. It’s up to each county to decide whether to enforce a scofflaw block. Some counties have decided that it’s just not worth the extra time and hassle to force drivers to pay their fines to cities.

According to the website, the following counties do not block vehicle registrations for outstanding red light camera tickets:

  • Calhoun
  • Chambers
  • Galveston
  • Harris
  • Potter
  • Tarrant

Will the unpaid debt hurt my credit?

State law says that unpaid red light camera tickets cannot be reported to a credit bureau. But depending on when the city where you received your ticket started its red light camera program, you could still be on the hook.

The statewide law regulating red light cameras took effect in 2007. According to The Dallas Morning News, any city that had a red light camera contract before 2007 is grandfathered, and may report unpaid fines to a credit bureau.

If you got your ticket in one of the following cities, failing to pay will mean a hit to your credit score:

  • Dallas
  • Arlington
  • Cedar Hill
  • Coppell
  • Denton
  • DeSoto
  • Duncanville
  • Farmers Branch
  • Frisco
  • Garland
  • Houston
  • Irving
  • Plano
  • Richardson
  • Rowlett
  • University Park

Please note that this may not be a complete list - make sure to check when your city’s program started before deciding not to pay!

What if the city already ended the program?

Several cities in Texas have voted to end their red light camera programs, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for a ticket you received while they were in effect.

Cities may still collect fines for violations that were caught by the cameras. Houston, which ended its program in 2010, still collects fines, and advises that there is no statute of limitations that would bar the city from collecting the debt.

Make sure to find out the situation in the city where you received your ticket.

What are my other options?

If you want to fight or contest the ticket, follow the directions listed on the ticket to request this option from your court.

Don’t assume that because the violation was issued by a camera that no one will be there to oppose you. According to Texas police departments, an officer reviews the footage of each violation and signs off before a ticket is issued. Be prepared to present your case, or consider hiring an attorney.

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