In Arizona, there is red light / speeding cameras. When you are caught on one of the cameras, they send you a ticket via mail. Since the ticket was never 'served' to you, it is not enforceable, and after a time period it drops off. Now they will send someone to serve you, and at that point you are responsible for the ticket in question.

I was walking down the street, and saw a officer giving out tickets and leaving them on the windshield of the cars. I was wondering if someone were to not receive the ticket because it was placed there (e.g., really bad rain storm, or some punk kid removed it) and was unaware of a ticket being issued since they were not 'served' the ticket, how are they liable, or does it fall under the same guidance as the cameras?

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    Do you have a source for the first assertion? It might well be true, but I'd want to know why it's not true, and I'd find it difficult to believe that it's unenforceable purely because it was never personally served (service by mail is generally an option, I think).
    – jimsug
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 4:23
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    Perhaps running a red light is a criminal violation in that jurisdiction, but parking violations are not. That could account for different notification requirements Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 14:20
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    The first assertion I think is unique to Arizona. It is because Arizona contracts out the red light camera's. They then file complaints with the courthouse that will issue the complaint. Since they are not a police officer, they have to have the ticket served to you to verify that you received the complaint. If you respond, then you have been considered served.
    – Jdahern
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 22:22

1 Answer 1


Arizona Revised Statute 28-1591 has a specific exemption for service of a parking or standing violation:

B. This article does not require that either the initial notification or a subsequent summons and complaint for a parking or standing violation be issued or served as required by this article.

This section carves out an exemption for parking infractions in that they don't need to be personally served.

If there is no response to the complaint left on the car, the statute further states:

If it is necessary to issue a summons and complaint because there is not a satisfactory response to the initial notice of a parking or standing violation, the summons and complaint may be sent by regular mail to the address provided to the department by the individual made responsible for the alleged violation by the applicable statute or ordinance. Service of the summons and complaint is complete on mailing.

When service is complete the court of jurisdiction has personal jurisdiction over the defendant and can enter a default judgment.

You are correct in the rest of your statement regarding moving violations reported by camera systems - the violator must be personally served. If personal service is not achieved then the complaint is dismissed with no record.

This article has a good explanation of the process for service for moving violations. The article references precedence established in Tonner v. Paradise Valley Magistrate's Court.

Arizona requires personal service in order to create personal jurisdiction for the court. Alternatively, the defendant can waive the personal service.

In Arizona, if one takes an action recorded on a traffic camera that causes a complaint to be issued that person will receive in the mail a form that is a waiver of service. Signing such a form and returning it tells the court that you waive personal service.

Refusal to sign and return the form does not remove the requirement the state has of personal service. If the state wishes to pursue the case they will need to provide personal service. If the state does successfully conclude personal service then the defendant will be liable for the initial fine as well as the cost of service.

From the article and the case:

Without completed service, the court does not obtain jurisdiction. “The incomplete service left the trial court without jurisdiction, i.e., without authority to enter the judgment.” Id., Supplemental Opinion, 187 Ariz. 487, 488, 930 P.2d 1001, 1002.

Ignoring a personally served citation, i.e., a ticket, allows the court to enter a default judgement. In the case of a citation that was not personally served and where personal service was not waived means the court never had jurisdiction in order to render a default judgment.

There is a time limit within which personal service must be completed for a complaint. I've found sources that claim both 120 days and 180 days from when the court was made aware of the complaint. Some sources also claim that the court must be notified and processes started within 10 days of the date of the infraction. If service is not completed within that time frame then the complaint is dropped and no record is retained.

So, yes, parking tickets do not have to be personally served according to statute and, yes, a person in Arizona has to be personally served with a moving violation citation. Failure to achieve proper service results in dismissal of the complaint.

  • So how does Arizona handle the situation where people say that they did not get the parking ticket; that there was no ticket on the car? That is really what the question is about.
    – jqning
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 15:42
  • Added further clarification in response to @jqning.
    – Dave D
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 16:11
  • @jqning basically, if the ticket was in fact removed from your vehicle, you are out of luck. If you incur additional penalties because of that, you might be able to get a judge to reduce them, but it is extremely difficult to prove that you never received something.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 20:17

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