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Court Upholds Chicago’s Red-Light Camera System

(CN) - Chicago's red-light camera system does not violate the constitutional rights of car owners who were fined $90 when someone else drove their cars through red lights or made illegal turns, the 7th Circuit ruled.

Chicago installed cameras to take photos of license plates to enforce traffic rules. The automated system makes the car owner liable for the $90 fine, no matter who was driving.

Auto owners who were forced to pay the driver's fine sued the city, claiming Chicago's system violates their due process and equal protection rights.

Judge Easterbrook said it's rational to fine the owner rather than the driver.

"A camera can show reliably which cars and trucks go through red lights, but is less likely to show who was driving," the judge wrote. "That would make it easy for owners to point the finger at friends or children - and essentially impossible for the city to prove otherwise."

The camera system reduces the cost of law enforcement while cracking down on traffic infractions, the court noted. "(T)hese benefits can be achieved only if the owner is held responsible," Easterbrook concluded.

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