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Judgement on PI license requirement for enforcement cameras

American Traffic Solutions : 08 December, 2008  (Technical Article)
Claims that photo enforcement cameras in use at Texas traffic light interchanges need a Private Investigator's license have been dismissed
American Traffic Solutions (ATS) has recently disputed claims made by a Texas lawyer in federal lawsuits against ATS and another photo enforcement vendor. The lawsuits claim that photo enforcement vendors operating in Texas must first obtain private investigators' licenses.

ATS is pleased to learn that the Texas Department of Public Safety - the agency that is statutorily authorised to regulate private investigators' licenses - has issued an opinion confirming ATS' position that red-light camera vendors do not need a private investigator's license to operate in Texas. ATS views this opinion as further proof that the lawsuits against photo enforcement vendors in Texas are without merit.

The opinion confirms ATS' position that the plaintiffs' claims are fundamentally flawed. Red-light camera vendors are not required to have a private investigator license in Texas under the terms of the statute itself and according to the Texas state agency that issues the investigative licenses.

In addition, vendors were specifically authorized by legislation in Texas to operate the very red-light camera programs that the plaintiffs are now challenging. Under the provisions of this legislation, The Texas Department of Transportation is required to study these programs. According to recent news reports, the department issued a report this week indicating a 30% reduction in crashes had been accomplished at intersections with red-light cameras.

ATS will continue to work closely with our partner cities to ensure the case against our company is quickly dismissed.

The official opinion on municipal red-light camera systems issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety says the following:

The Private Security Bureau of the Texas Department of Public Safety does not interpret Chapter 1702 of the Occupations Code (the "Private Security Act") as requiring those who assist a municipality with the administration of a photographic traffic signal enforcement system to obtain licenses as private investigators.

Photographic traffic signal enforcement systems are operated for the express purpose of detecting a violation or suspected violation of a traffic-control signal. The Private Security Act exempts photographs taken for criminal justice purposes on behalf of a governmental entity. In addition, such a system is authorized by Chapter 707, Transportation Code, and Section 707.003 of that Code specifically allows a municipality to contract for any aspect of the system.

While Section 1702.104(a)(2) of the Private Security Act does state that a person acts as an investigations company if the person engages in the business of securing "evidence for use before a court, board, officer, or investigating committee," the photographic traffic signal enforcement systems with which we are familiar are operated and overseen by the municipalities, not by the contractors. The contractors' activities are generally ministerial, and are performed at the direction of city employees. Thus the municipalities are the entities that "secure evidence" for use at hearings associated with the photographic traffic signal enforcement system, and as governmental entities, they are exempt from the licensing requirement.

For these reasons, we do not believe that the activities of the contractors associated with municipalities' photographic traffic signal enforcement systems require licensure as private investigators under the Private Security Act. This determination is based on our understanding of the most common contractual arrangements and may not be applicable to all such contracts between governmental entities and private vendors.
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