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Unofficial Opinion 2000-7

Unofficial Opinion 2000-7

June 30, 2000
To: 

Representative
House District 67

Re: 

Municipalities are not prohibited by Georgia's Constitution or laws from enacting ordinances regarding enforcement of traffic control devices by the use of cameras.

You have asked my opinion as to whether The Municipal Home Rule Act of 1965, O.C.G.A. § 36-35-1, et seq. (“the Home Rule Act”), allows municipalities to enact local ordinances whereby compliance with traffic control devices may be enforced through the use of cameras or other imaging technology. For the reasons set forth below, it is my opinion that such enforcement efforts are not prohibited by Georgia’s Constitution or laws.

The Georgia Constitution permits the General Assembly to delegate its power to municipalities “so that matters pertaining to municipalities may be dealt with without the necessity of action by the General Assembly.” Ga. Const. Art. IX, Sec. II, Para. II. The expression of that delegation is the Home Rule Act, O.C.G.A. § 36-35-1, et seq.

The General Assembly has delegated to “[t]he governing authority of each municipal corporation [the] legislative power to adopt clearly reasonable ordinances, resolutions, or regulations relating to its property, affairs, and local government for which no provision has been made by general law and which are not inconsistent with the Constitution or any charter provision applicable thereto.” O.C.G.A. § 36-35-3(a). The home rule authority of municipalities is further limited by O.C.G.A. § 36-35-6, which expressly prevents local enactment relating to “any . . . matters which the General Assembly by general law has preempted or may hereafter preempt.” That Code Section further sets forth additional specific categories of matters the regulation of which is reserved exclusively to the General Assembly. O.C.G.A. § 36-35-6(a)(1) to (7).

As you have noted in your request, Georgia’s Constitution further provides that “any . . . municipality . . . may exercise the following powers and provide the following services: . . . (4) [s]treet and road construction and maintenance, including curbs, sidewalks, street lights, and devices to control the flow of traffic on streets and roads constructed by counties and municipalities or any combination thereof.” Ga. Const. Art. IX, Sec II, Para. III. Furthermore, “local authorities” are not prohibited “with respect to streets and highways under . . . their jurisdiction and within the reasonable exercise of the police power from: . . . (2) [r]egulating traffic by means of police officers or official traffic control devices.” O.C.G.A. § 40-6-371(a).

“A municipality may regulate and control the use of the public roads on its municipal street system and on portions of the county road systems extending within the corporate limits of the municipality.” O.C.G.A. § 32-4-92(a)(7). See also 1974 Op. Atty Gen. U74-94. Moreover, “official traffic control devices” are defined as “all signs, signals, markings, and devices not inconsistent with this title which are placed or erected by authority of a public body or official having jurisdiction for the purpose of regulating, warning, or guiding traffic.” O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1(37).

The scheme which you have described for the video enforcement of traffic control devices would apparently include civil monetary penalties which, when imposed, would be the responsibility of the owner of the vehicle. Violations of traffic control devices would be detected by the video equipment erected at or near the device, and recorded for use in enforcing this civil monetary penalty.

It is my unofficial opinion that municipalities may undertake such regulation “with respect to streets and highways under their jurisdiction” by means of the enactment of local ordinances, so long as such is permitted by the charter of the individual municipal corporation, and further so long as such regulation is not hereafter preempted by action of the General Assembly.

Prepared by:

CHRISTOPHER S. BRASHER
Senior Assistant Attorney General