I've seen lots of opinions about those photo traffic tickets that you receive by mail. First, are they enforceable, or can they be easily beaten? Second, do they go on your driving record?
—Toby Armstrong, Portland
The belief that there's some easy, foolproof way to beat mechanically issued citations is like Kim Kardashian's ass: tempting, wrong, and all over the Internet. Unfortunately for scofflaws, these stories are as much of a crock as the chestnut about undercover cops having to tell you they're cops if you ask.
For the record: in Oregon, camera tickets show up on your motor vehicle report like any other ticket. And unlike bull markets and Tinkerbell, they don't go away just because you don't believe in them.
"Whether the evidence was gathered by machine isn't relevant," says Ken Kahn, a Portland attorney who regularly handles traffic cases. "The pertinent question is: were you speeding or not?" Ah, yes; the old "guilt-or-innocence" dodge—how typical of the justice system to concern itself with such pettifogging trivialities.
It's not that radar and red-light cameras don't raise privacy and civil-liberties concerns. Defense attorneys feel they tend to shift the burden of proof onto the accused, for starters, and they ignore the principle of summonses being served in person. So far, though, the courts don't seem worried. "Unfortunately," says Kahn, "these laws have been tested in court and upheld."
There are ways to keep camera tickets off your record, of course. They're just the same deals you'd make for any ticket—diversion, for example. Kahn advises pleading not guilty in court. You'll have a chance to talk to the citing officer before your trial, and he says most are "very reasonable." Still, you might wanna leave your Red & Black Cafe T-shirt at home. Better yet, send it to me—I love those guys.