The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Traffic Citations

Reference Number: MTAS-592
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: September 19, 2017
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Traffic Citations in Lieu of Arrest
When a person violates any traffic ordinance or regulation in the presence of a law enforcement officer, member of the fire or building department designated a special city police officer, or transit inspector employed by a public transit system, the officer or inspector may issue a citation or complaint in lieu of arresting the offender and having a warrant issued. The general provision in state law authorizing the issuance of a citation rather than a custodial arrest, T.C.A. § 40-2-118, does not apply to citations for traffic or financial responsibility violations. Traffic and financial responsibility citations must be issued under T.C.A. § 55-10-207.

A copy of the citation, stating the offense charged and where and when to appear in court, must be given to the offender. T.C.A. § 7-63-101.

Financial Responsibility
T.C.A. § 55-12-139 requires law enforcement officers to require evidence of financial responsibility from a person charged with a moving traffic violation under state law, a local ordinance regulating traffic, or at the time of an accident causing injury or death or property damage greater than $50. "Financial responsibility" generally means documentation of insurance. Failure to show evidence of financial responsibility is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $100. T.C.A. § 16-18-302 authorizes cities to adopt the financial responsibility law by reference. The maximum fine for an ordinance violation is $50. T.C.A. § 55-12-139 also requires a court to dismiss a first-time offense if the offender, before the court date, submits proof of compliance as of the date of the violation, and it allows discretion for subsequent violations. No costs or litigation tax may be assessed for dismissal. When there is a traffic accident involving death or bodily injury, and the financial responsibility law violator was at fault, the offense is a Class A misdemeanor.

Uniform Traffic Citations
Municipal law enforcement officers may use a uniform traffic citation form prescribed by the Department of Safety. T.C.A. § 55-10-208.

Cancellation of Traffic Citation
A person is guilty of a misdemeanor if he cancels a traffic citation or seeks to have one canceled by any method other than that established by law. Records of citations required by T.C.A. § Title 55, Chapters 8 and 10, and issued by city police officers must be audited by the city’s fiscal officer. T.C.A. § 55-10-204.

Citation Based Upon Traffic Camera
A traffic citation based solely upon evidence from a surveillance camera must be considered a non-moving violation.

Prior to the installation of a new unmanned traffic camera the municipality must conduct a traffic engineering study in accordance with the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) standards which must be certified by a licensed engineer specializing in traffic engineering. No vendor may participate in the study or the selection of an engineer.

A new or renewed contract for traffic surveillance cameras and/or their operation must contain a provision stating that the contract will conform to any changes in state law. T.C.A. § 55-9-198.

No citation may be issued for making a right turn without coming to a complete stop, based solely upon traffic camera evidence, unless evidence shows the vehicle with a front tire before the stop line when the signal is red, and subsequently shows the same vehicle with a rear tire past the stop line while the signal is red. Violations for making a right turn at a red light where signage is posted to the contrary may be based solely upon camera evidence.

No citation based solely upon traffic camera evidence is permitted within one mile of a reduction of speed sign where reduction is 10 miles per hour or greater, except in a school zone where flashers are active.

A POST-certified officer must review video evidence and determine whether a violation occurred. If the officer determines that a violation did occur, a citation must be sent by first-class mail to the registered owner of the vehicle within 20 days of the alleged violation. The citation must allow for payment within 30 days of mailing. No additional penalty or costs may be assessed for non-payment unless a second notice is sent by first-class mail allowing for an additional 30 days. Fines for uncontested citations cannot exceed $50.

The owner of the vehicle is responsible for the citation unless on or before the court date the owner provides an affidavit stating the name and address of the person who leased, rented, or had care, custody or control of the vehicle at the time of the violation. The owner also may provide an affidavit stating that the vehicle had been stolen prior to the time of the violation. T.C.A. § 55-8-198.

A municipality may not reduce the time of the yellow light at camera-enforced intersections to increase the number of traffic violations. T.C.A. § 55-8-110.

Any information regarding a citation based upon traffic camera surveillance evidence, including payment information, cannot be disclosed to a consumer reporting agency nor disclosed in any credit report. T.C.A. § 55-8-198.

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