Interviewer: Now, let’s discuss other traffic offenses. In any of the cities in South Carolina are there red light cameras or speed cameras or any other cameras installed?
Freddy: Well, increasingly you’ll see that there are cameras on just about every street or every major intersection. There’s going to be red light cameras that will record you. If you go through a toll road, generally, if you pass through this section where you have to have a sticker, and say, for example, you don’t pay. There’s a camera that’s going to take a picture of your license plate and will send you a ticket for that after that.
Increasingly, on street corners in major cities, cameras are being used to catch people who run through traffic lights or red lights so that the police can be able to issue citations.
Interviewer: If the camera’s at a red light does that differ in terms of penalties, versus just running a red light?
Incurring Points Due to Traffic Violations
Freddy: Yes. There are differences. For example, there’s a charge called “disregarding a stop sign.” A disregarding a stop sign charge means that you just blew through the stop sign or you didn’t stop at all or you stopped too quickly and you kept going. In that case, that is actually a traffic ticket that can go on your driving record. That kind of traffic ticket goes on your driving record can carry a point value and make you pay a fine.
Interviewer: Let’s focus on this area. So, if I’m pulled over by the police for running a red light versus getting a ticket from a red light camera, how is that different or is it different?
Freddy: If you’re pulled over by the police for a red light, they will charge you probably with disregarding a stop sign and issue you a citation with a court date and a time for you to be able to appear and you’ll have to pay a fine if found guilty.
If you have a ticket from a red light camera, the red light camera will do the same thing. It’ll take a picture of your license plate. These are only used in limited areas in major metropolitan cities. They will take a picture of your license plate and send you a ticket in the mail.
Interviewer: You’re saying if someone runs a red light the police will cite you for disregarding a stop sign instead of running a red light or you’re disregarding a traffic signal?
Freddy: You have three levels. There’s disregarding a traffic signal, disregarding a stop sign and disregarding a red light but these are usually city charges. They vary depending upon what city you’re in.
Being Stopped by the Police: You Can Be Cited for Multiple Traffic Violations at One Time
Interviewer: Do the police tend to stack charges? Like if you run a red light, can they charge you both with running a red light and disregarding a traffic signal or do they just do one at a time?
Freddy: In South Carolina a police officer can charge you with any infraction that he sees you commit. For example, if you blew through a stop sign, he could charge you with disregarding a stop sign. If, for example, you were speeding when you blew through it, he could charge you with speeding. Then, if you fail to stop when he put his blue lights on, he could charge you with failure to stop for a blue light.
Basically you’re going to be charged with failure to stop for a blue light, speeding and disregarding a stop sign on the same time. The police officer has the authority to be able to charge you with whatever crime he wants to at the time.
Interviewer: Have you had instances where the police will follow someone and allege that they committed multiple traffic offenses, one after another, like they disregarded two stop signs in a row? Are they allowed to do that? Do they have to pull you over for the first infraction or not?
Freddy: Generally speaking, they can pull you over for just one infraction or for several. A lot of times, what will happen is that someone will commit several infractions all at the same time. The police can follow them for a while and while they’re following them, they can note the infractions and charge them individual tickets for each one.
Interviewer: Most probably, if they follow you for a few miles through 20 different traffic infractions they can cite you for all of them. The police stop will occur whenever they feel like pulling you over, is that right?
What Type of Driving Police Look for When They Suspect a Driver Is Impaired
Freddy: Exactly right. Sometimes the police will get behind you and think that you’re leaving, but maybe they saw an infraction out of the corner of their eye, and so they’ll get behind you and see if you continue to be weaving. This is what happens in a DUI case.
A police officer will get behind someone who they think is impaired due to their driving. Maybe they’re weaving or they’re about to cross the center line and they will wait until they commit the infraction, such as crossing the center line or driving onto the shoulder of the road and then, at that time, they will blue light them. Yes, they’re waiting for you to mess up.
Interviewer: Is there any defense in the fact that they’re making you nervous or putting you in a stressful situation where you’re more likely to commit a traffic offense unintentionally?
Freddy: None. There’s no defense of that because there’s no reason. When you’re driving down the highway, anybody can follow you. They can follow you close. They can follow you far. They can follow you and look at you from a long ways away or they can look at you from a short distance. So, when it comes down to it, anytime you’re on the highway, other people are watching you drive.
There’s no penalty or there’s nothing that the police officer’s doing wrong about watching you drive. Presumably, if your driving is proper, and you’re following all the safety laws, then the police officer will no longer follow you and focus their attention elsewhere.
By Freddy Woods