A reader who is not a fan of speed cameras asks how a citation mailed to him can be legally enforceable, since he did not sign for it when the camera snapped a photo of his car allegedly exceeding the speed limit.

"If an officer stops me, I have to sign for the ticket," he said. "But I never signed for this."


The reader is correct that if a police officer issues a traffic citation, state law requires the driver to sign an acknowledgment that he received the citation. His signature does not admit guilt for the offense and does not affect his right to go to court to contest it. If he refuses to sign, he could be arrested.

The state statutes that govern operation of speed cameras define "owner" as "the registered owner of a motor vehicle or a lessee of a motor vehicle under a lease of six months or more." That is the person who will receive the mailed citation.

The law requires the speed camera image to show the rear of the vehicle, include at least two time-stamped images of the vehicle that "show the same stationary object near the motor vehicle" and include at least one image of, "a clear and legible identification of the entire registration plate number of the motor vehicle."

Regarding driver signatures, a section of the Transportation Article of the Maryland Code simply directs, ". . .an agency shall mail to an owner … a citation." The citation must include the owner's name and address, registration number, violation charged, location, date and time of the violation, a copy of the recorded image, the amount of the penalty and a signed statement from a law enforcement officer that, based on inspection of the images, the vehicle was being operated in violation of the law.

But the owner may not have been driving at the time the speed camera took the photo.

"Fully a third of speed camera tickets are going to people who did not in fact commit the offense because someone else was driving at the time," according to the Maryland Drivers Alliance, a blog posted by a Montgomery County speed camera opponent.

Vehicle owners who were not driving at the time of a speed camera-ticketed offense can challenge the tickets in District Court. To get the citation off their records, they will need to present evidence that they could not have been driving at the time the speed camera photographed their cars.

Some vehicle owners report being pressured at court hearings to identify the person who was driving the car. Some have refused, arguing that if an owner proves he could not have been driving the car at the time, he does not want to incriminate the actual driver by identifying him or her.

Other possible "erroneous violations" that may occur with speed cameras include: a photo of a license plate that does not match the license plate issued to the vehicle in the photo; incorrectly measured speed or a recorded image that shows a stopped vehicle.

Donna Engle is a retired Westminster attorney. Reach her with questions or feedback at 410-840-2354 or denglelaw@gmail.com. Her column, which provides legal information but not legal advice, appears on the second and fourth Sunday each month in Life & Times.