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Automated Red-Light Enforcement FAQs

What is automated photo enforcement?

To enhance the safety of the District's residents and visitors, the Metropolitan Police Department has developed an automated photo enforcement program designed to reduce the number of drivers who violate traffic regulations. The cameras help enforce traffic laws and reduce violations by automatically photographing the license plates of vehicles whose drivers violate the regulations. The photos capture only the rear of the vehicle and its license plate—they do not show the driver or passengers. Currently, the program includes camera systems that capture red-light running violations at more than three dozen intersections with a high incidence of violations and crashes, as well as photo radar systems designed to reduce speeding at locations with chronic problems.

What is the goal of automated photo enforcement?

The goal of the District's automated photo enforcement program is straightforward: to reduce traffic violations and, as a result, decrease the number of crashes, prevent injuries, and save lives. Since their implementation, the traffic safety systems have contributed to a dramatic reduction in red-light running at the intersections where they are operational. And fewer violations should translate into lower crash and injury rates among both drivers and pedestrians. The cameras have the added benefit of enhancing traffic safety while promoting community policing. Because the red-light cameras provide 24-hour-a-day coverage, they allow the MPDC to be more consistent, more strategic, and more efficient in its enforcement of traffic regulations—a top priority of citizens. These safety benefits are achieved without having to devote extra police resources to enhanced traffic enforcement. Instead, police officers can devote their time to other priorities, including focused law enforcement, neighborhood problem solving, and crime prevention in DC neighborhoods.

How does the program work?

Cameras capture violations on film and record all of the relevant data for the violation. For example, when a red-light violation occurs, the camera records the date, time, vehicle's speed, and time elapsed since the beginning of the red signal. The images are then analyzed, possible extenuating circumstances are considered, and the registered owner of the vehicle is verified. A citation showing a photo of the violation is then mailed to the vehicle owner. Individuals may now view their violation images online (requires ticket number and unique personal identification number provided on the mailed citation).

For more information, view How Red-Light Cameras Work.

Where are the cameras located?

The District's cameras are placed at locations where chronic violations cause crashes and endanger the community. The MPDC notifies the public at least 30 days in advance of installation of any new red-light camera, and the locations of all currently installed red-light cameras are posted on the Department's website. Street signs alerting drivers that automated photo enforcement is being used are positioned at strategic locations throughout the District, including major "gateways" to the city. The locations of automated photo enforcement systems may be expanded in the future as warranted. 

When a violation occurs, who receives the citation?

Citations are mailed to the registered vehicle owner, as determined by the photo of the license plate.

What if the registered owner was not driving the vehicle?

The vehicle owner  is responsible for all automated enforcement tickets issued to the vehicle, regardless of who was operating the vehicle at the time of the violation. Please review the ticket for Information on how to answer the violation or make payment. However, if  the vehicle or the license plates were stolen at the time the violation occurred, please provide a copy of the complete police report  with your adjudication request.   No points are assessed  for automated enforcement tickets.

What is the District law authorizing automated traffic enforcement?

The law authorizing automated traffic enforcement in the District of Columbia can be found in the DC Official Code (Division VIII, Title 50, Subtitle VII, Chapter 22, Subchapter 5).

What if the car was part of a funeral procession or there were other extenuating circumstances?

There are extenuating circumstances in which a red-light violation may be administratively voided:

  • The vehicle was part of a funeral procession
  • The vehicle or its tags were stolen prior to the issuance of the ticket

If you receive a citation and any of these circumstances applies, check the appropriate boxes on the back of the citation and mail back the citation, along with supporting documentation, to the Automated Traffic Enforcement office (PO Box 37135, Washington, DC 20013). For a stolen vehicle or tag, you will need a copy of the police report (not just the report number). For a funeral procession, a copy of the program book or a letter from the funeral director are acceptable forms of documentation. The affidavit and documentation will be analyzed, and the citation will be voided if appropriate.

What are the penalties for these violations?

The fines for traffic violations captured by automated photo enforcement are exactly the same as the fines for violations issued by a police officer. The penalty for running a red light is a $150 fine. However, there are no points assessed for photo enforcement violations in DC.

What do I do if I receive a ticket in the mail?

A ticket issued through the District of Columbia's Automated Traffic Enforcement Program is the same as any other moving ticket issued within the city limits. You may pay the fine, which is an admission of guilt, adjudicate the citation via mail or request a hearing. Adjudication for photo-enforced violations is handled at the Department of Motor Vehicles, Adjudication Services, located at 301 C Street, NW. Specific instructions are included on the back of each NOI that is mailed. Failure to respond to the ticket, either by paying the fine or requesting a hearing within the specified time frame, can result in additional fees and penalties. Telephone or mail responses are encouraged.

  • Individuals may now view their violation images online (requires ticket number and unique personal identification number provided on the mailed citation).
  • Individuals may also pay their tickets online, through the Department or Motor Vehicle website.

Where can I get more information on this program?

Call the Mayor’s Call Center at 311 or (202) 737-4404.