More from the Legal
Texas Business reports: The Texas Attorney General’s office said in an opinion issued today from its office that cities are prohibited from using radar devices that makes photographs of a vehicle, its license plate or operator.
The opinion was in response to a query by state representative Vicki Truitt, who said the city of Plano was considering buying such devices.
The question was posed in her position as chair of the House committee on pensions, investments and financial services.
Truitt specifically asked whether section 542.2035, Transportation Code, prohibits a municipal peace officer from using a handheld laser speed enforcement device to collect evidence before initiating a traffic stop.
The Texas Attorney General’s office wrote that it did.
“By enactment of Transportation Code section 542.2035, the Legislature has prohibited a municipality from using any radar device that records the speed of a motor vehicle and obtains one or more photographs or other recorded images of the vehicle, its license plate or its operator,” the Texas Attorney General’s office wrote.
“You ask whether section 542.2035 of the Transportation Code "prohibits a peace officer employed by a municipality from using a handheld laser speed enforcement device equipped with a video camera and GPS technology to collect evidence before initiating a traffic stop,” the attorney general’s office said in its opinion. “You explain that "the Plano Police Department is considering purchasing" such a device "for use by its traffic enforcement officers," but you are concerned that the wording of section 542.2035 may prohibit the use of this new technology.”
Truitt described the technology at issue by explaining that the new hand held radar guns "incorporate video cameras and GPS systems into conventional handheld laser speed enforcement equipment. Such devices provide a complete chain of video and satellite evidence for officers to use in court. Unlike the automated speed enforcement systems, these devices are personally operated by an officer."
The attorney general’s office states that the section prohibits a municipality from implementing or operating “an automated traffic control system with respect to a highway or street under its jurisdiction for the purpose of enforcing compliance with posted speed limits.” Code Ann. § 542.2035(a) (West Supp. 2010).
“Your question therefore requires us to determine whether an automated traffic control system, as that phrase is defined by statute, includes a handheld laser speed enforcement device, like the one you describe, equipped with a video camera and GPS technology,” the attorney general’s office writes.
Although a common understanding of the term automated may suggest a lack of human direction or control, the statutory definition … does not so limit the phrase "automated traffic control system,” the office writes.
“Instead, any handheld laser device will meet the Legislature's definition so long as it records the speed of a motor vehicle and obtains the requisite photograph or recorded image. Based on the information you have provided, it appears that the device in question meets this definition and is therefore prohibited.”
Thus, the “Legislature has prohibited a municipality from using any radar device that records the speed of a motor vehicle and obtains one or more photographs or other recorded images of the vehicle, its license plate or its operator,” the office stated.
See full text of the Texas Attorney General's opinion.