A growing number of cities are using cameras to catch drivers running red lights. But more and more drivers say they are mistakenly receiving tickets for red lights they never ran.
Jacob Moritz is among them. He prides himself on his driving.
"I definitely don't run red lights. I can't afford to," Moritz said.
But Calumet City, Illinois, thinks he did. The city sent him a $100 ticket for running a red light camera.
The only problem? Moritz says it's a case of mistaken identity.
"I knew instantly this wasn't my pickup truck and wasn't my license plate," he said.
Mortiz says the photos that the city sent him clearly show his Ford F-150 was not the car that ran the red light.
"No, that's a Ford Explorer Sport Track," he said. "It's actually more of an SUV."
But Moritz thinks he knows why he was targeted. Both his truck and the vehicle in the photo have similar license plates.
Moritz's license plate number is one digit off from the car in the red light camera photo. Both plates have the same first five digits. Moritz's plate number ends with "NKM," while the offending driver's plate ends with "NXM" — and the "K" and the "X" look very similar.
It might not be that big a deal, except Moritz is a commercial truck driver with a CDL license. He worries any traffic violation could impact his job.
"I had to turn it into work because they told me that as of right now, it is going on my license," he said.
What can you do if this happens to you?
A public information officer with the Calumet City Police Department said that Moritz could challenge the ticket by mail by sending photos of his registration and license plate. The department would not discuss the case further.
In the meantime, defense attorneys say that those who mistakenly receive a ticket for a speeding or red-light violation should:
- Never ignore a ticket, even if it is from a state you have never visited. The fine could double or triple if left unpaid.
- Call or Google to find out how to challenge it.
- Send photos of everything, ideally by certified mail, to the court listed on the citation.
Even if it's a case of mistaken identity, those who receive a ticket by mail are essentially guilty until they prove themselves innocent.
"I had never even actually even heard of this city," Moritz said, let alone driven through it.
He has heard of it now.
One bit of good news: The Calumet City officer said Moritz's ticket is a civil violation, not a criminal moving violation, because there is no picture of the driver.
Still, don't ignore traffic tickets, so you don't waste your money.
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