On May 8, 2018, Governor Nathan Deal signed into Georgia House Bill 978 which amends the current law regarding School Bus Camera Tickets. This is a major amendment of the existing law which has both good news and bad news.
First, the good news. School bus camera tickets are now $250 for each incident. Prior to this amendment, it was $300 for the first offense, $750 for the second offense, and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. These were egregious penalties especially for any tickets beyond the first one. But now, it is more “reasonable” at $250 per offense whether it is your first, second, third, etc. ticket.
Secondly, drivers will not be penalized if you drive pass a school bus in the opposite lane. It used to be no matter which lane or direction you are driving, if you passed a school bus, you could receive a school bus camera ticket. The specific language in the amended law is as follows:
The driver of a vehicle upon a highway with separate roadways or a divided highway, including, but not limited to, a highway divided by a turn lane, need not stop upon meeting or passing a school bus which is on a different roadway or on another half of a divided highway, or upon a controlled-access highway when the school bus is stopped in a loading zone which is a part of or adjacent to such highway and where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the roadway.
Now, to the bad news. The enforcement of payment of penalties is now being placed upon Georgia’s Department of Revenue, specifically the department which regulates car tag registrations and car tag titles. Supposedly, if you do not pay the civil penalties, you will not be able to renew your car registration, nor will you be able to transfer car title to anyone. That means you theoretically can’t sell your car or trade-in your car.
The specific language in the amended law is as follows:
(7) If a violation has not been contested and the assessed penalty has not been paid, the agent or governing body shall send to the person who is the registered owner of the motor vehicle a final notice of any unpaid civil monetary penalty authorized by this Code section, except in cases where there is an adjudication that no violation occurred or there is otherwise a lawful determination that no civil monetary penalty shall be imposed. The notice shall inform the registered owner that the agent or governing body shall send a referral to the Department of Revenue if the assessed penalty and any late fee is not paid within 30 days after the final notice was mailed and that such referral shall result in the nonrenewal of the registration of such motor vehicle and shall prohibit the title transfer of such motor vehicle within this state.
(8) The agent or governing body shall send a referral to the Department of Revenue not sooner than 30 days after the final notice required under paragraph (7) of this subsection was mailed if a violation of an ordinance or resolution adopted under this article has not been contested and the assessed penalty has not been paid. The referral to the Department of Revenue shall include the following:
(A) Any information known or available to the agent or governing body concerning the license plate number, year of registration, and the name of the owner of the motor vehicle;
(B) The date on which the violation occurred;
(C) The date when the notice required under this Code section was mailed; and
(D) The seal, logo, emblem, or electronic seal of the governing body.
(9) If the Department of Revenue receives a referral under paragraph (8) of this subsection, such referral shall be entered into the motor vehicle database within five days of receipt and the Department of Revenue shall refuse to renew the registration of such motor vehicle and shall prohibit the title transfer of such vehicle within this state unless and until the civil monetary penalty plus any late fee is paid to the governing body. The Department of Revenue shall mail a notice to the registered owner of such motor vehicle that informs such owner:
(A) That the registration of the vehicle involved in the violation will not be permitted to be renewed;
(B) That the title of the vehicle involved in the violation will not be permitted to be transferred in this state;
(C) That the aforementioned penalties are being imposed due to the failure to pay the civil monetary penalty plus any late fee for an ordinance violation adopted under the authority of this Code section; and
(D) Of the procedure that the person may follow to remove the penalties.
Prior to this amendment, the previous law had few recourse against people who were smart and clever enough to carefully read the law and simply not pay the “civil penalties”. There were veiled suppositions and hypothetical statements made by various local government websites and local government employees that someone COULD face collection action or have the matter show up on a credit report. But these statements were never definitive and largely relied on most people’s ignorance of the law. It relied on the “uncertainty factor”. School bus camera tickets are not a debt. The imposed civil penalty was not part of a contract anyone agreed to or signed, and because of these two issues, legitimate collection agencies could not attempt collection action based on any debt or contract claim.
But now, things seems to have changed. If you don’t pay the civil penalty, then you theoretically can’t renew your Georgia car registration or transfer your Georgia car title. I say theoretically because this amendment is newly passed and has not yet been implemented or executed. Also, it currently appears that drivers with non-Georgia car tags and car registrations will be exempt from this. This appears to be an unintentional loophole due to the fact that Georgia cannot compel any other state to NOT renew their state’s car titles or refuse to transfer their state’s car titles. However, we will see what transpires in the weeks and months to come.
Also, it appears this recent amendment sets the stage for “school zone speeding camera tickets” using cameras along with radar, speed-detection devices. This does not currently exist but it appears there will soon be warning signs near school zones warning people that speeding in school zones will be monitored and enforced by a combination of cameras and speed radar devices.
As with all laws, the true impact and consequences of this new amendment remains to be seen. There is some benefit where people will not suffer egregious financial penalties if a driver gets caught up in this situation more than once. There will also be fewer situations where drivers on the opposite lane will suffer a camera ticket.
However, the birth of school zone speeding camera tickets and holding people’s car registrations and car titles hostage to questionable camera ticketing systems by a for-profit company remains a great concern.
We feel that it is too early to tell what the long-term impact will be. Further, we are still studying this new amendment and public comments to determine what we advise people to do.
- The ViolationInfo.com Camera Ticket “Scam” in Georgia
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- ViolationInfo.com’s “Final Notice of Violation And” (Cobb County, GA)