Oregon Man Fined $500 for Criticizing Red Light Cameras, Not Being an Engineer

State Board claims only licensed engineers can publicly engage in “mathematical criticism” of its traffic technology.

byMark Sanew| UPDATED Apr 26, 2017 12:01 PM
Oregon Man Fined $500 for Criticizing Red Light Cameras, Not Being an Engineer

The Institute for Justice is backing Mats Järlström, an Oregon resident who was fined $500 for publicly questioning the logic of the state's red-light camera systems. The Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying claim that Mats does not have the proper licensing to criticize the state's traffic control devices. 

The problem started when Mat's wife received a red-light traffic ticket. Many cities and states have recently come under fire for possibly manipulating the timing of the yellow lights, in some cases shortening them. In the Oregon case, Mats decided to write and speak publicly about concerns over the legitimacy of the system's timing, at which point the State Board slapped him with a $500 fine for "unlicensed practice of engineering" because he was "engaging in mathematical criticism" of the system, according to the Institute of Justice.

Millions of drivers have been subjected to fines from automated systems linked to massive revenue for many municipalities. The lawsuit in this case exists to fight for the right to questions those same systems.

“Criticizing the government’s engineering isn’t a crime; it’s a constitutional right,” said Sam Gedge, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, which represents Mats in the lawsuit. “Under the First  Amendment, you don’t need to be a licensed lawyer to write an article critical of a Supreme Court decision, you don’t need to be a licensed landscape architect to create a gardening blog, and you don’t need to be a licensed engineer to talk about traffic lights. Whether or not you use math, criticizing the government is a core constitutional right that cannot be hampered by onerous licensing requirements.”

Attorney Sam Gedge