Scottsdale's Photo Enforcement Tickets Lie About Consequences of Failing to Respond

Here's one way to get people to pay their photo enforcement tickets or waive their right to proper service: Lie.

That's what the Scottsdale City Court does in tickets generated from its municipal system, which operates speed and red light cameras.

As savvy readers know, especially if they've read our work on the subject, the tickets carry little legal weight until they are hand-delivered or you waive your right to proper service under Arizona Supreme Court rules. 

The evidence that Scottsdale is telling a whopper to scare violators into compliance came to us recently on a red light camera ticket obtained from a fellow New Times employee. (Don't be so judgmental -- the photo clearly shows this wasn't some suicidal plunge through an intersection. Rather, our intrepid employee tried and failed to beat the light on a left-turn arrow).

At the top of the ticket, the summons reads:

If you fail to appear or respond as directed in this complaint, you will be subject to personal service of this Complaint and Summons and the cost of personal service will be assessed to you.

So far so good. But don't worry about the "cost of personal service," because it's only about $25 if they catch you. If the servers don't find you, and if you don't waive your rights, the ticket will be dismissed from the court system and you'll pay nothing. But not according to Scottsdale. The summons continues with:

In addition, you will be subject to a default judgment, the assessment of a fine, surcharge and fees, and the suspension of your driver's license.

That, dear readers, is a bald-faced lie.

The "in addition" part not-so-slyly tries to connect the part about suspended driver's license to the "if you fail to appear or respond" verbiage. Don't fall for it.

Your driver's license will be suspended only if you ignore the ticket after it is hand-delivered, (or if you pull a real boner by signing the waiver, mailing it back to the authorities and then blowing it off).

Sure, we know it's in the best interest of the photo enforcement system to keep people confused about the consequences of trashing the tickets. That confusion has even extended to veteran newspaper columnists who should know better.

But when the government attempts to deceive, it weakens its legitimacy. Plus, it's darned unethical.

Now, we know some of the folks down at Scottsdale City Court from our research for last year's photo enforcement article, "Gotcha." They're fine people.

The court's presiding judge, B. Monte Morgan (above), is a pillar of the community. We assume he didn't come up with the wording. But now that the mistake has been pointed out, let's hope he won't mind fixing these tickets -- to make them truthful. -- Ray Stern

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern