Yes. In People vs. Goldsmith (2014), the California Supreme Court ruled red light camera tickets constitutional. The ruling also stated that images taken by red light cameras are proof of traffic violations and are considered court evidence (e.g., for speeding tickets in Los Angeles).
Goldsmith believed the evidence from a red light camera should be considered hearsay. He argued that it constitutes an inadequate foundation for evidence, but the court disagreed. What are the implications of this ruling?
How Do Red Light Speeding Cameras Work?
Red light speeding cameras have been used in many states for several years now. The devices discourage drivers from speeding and running red lights and hopefully lessen the number of deaths caused by reckless and unsafe driving.
Red light cameras are activated when a vehicle goes over a sensor in an intersection when the light is red. The device takes a photo of both the car’s license plate and the driver. A ticket is then mailed to the car’s registered owner, along with the photographic evidence, a copy of the citation, and the amount of fines the driver must pay.
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What’s Wrong With Using Cameras for Traffic Enforcement?
While the idea behind the use of red-light cameras is admirable, many people have criticized its utilization. Some say the cameras are vital in assisting law enforcement officials in keeping the streets safe.
Others say this kind of automated law enforcement is unconstitutional and can lead to corruption. Many drivers have already complained about the excessive fines they have to pay when caught by red-light cameras.
While instructions on how to challenge the red light camera ticket come with the ticket, most people believe they don’t have a fight because of the photo and video evidence. But there are ways to fight these tickets successfully.
Are Red Light Speeding Cameras Effective?
Yes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) evaluated red light camera enforcement in Oxnard, California, in 1999 to determine its effectiveness. They studied 14 intersections and found that red light violation rates reduced by 42% several months after the enforcement program began.
Furthermore, they observed safer driving at other intersections even if a red light speeding camera wasn’t present. Numerous other studies across the country showed similar results, especially when combined with extending yellow light timings.
The problems with these cameras are false positives and, in some states and cities, corruption by officials using the cameras as a revenue generation system. Corrupted officials do this by changing the timings of the green and yellow lights to “catch” more red-light runners.
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What Are Your Legal Options if You Receive a Ticket?
If you get one of these tickets in the mail, don’t ignore it. You’ll only compound the problem. You have three options if you receive a red light ticket from a camera:
- Plead guilty
- Plead not guilty
- Ask to attend traffic school
If you plead guilty, you’ll have to pay the fine and receive a traffic violation point. If you choose a not guilty plea, your lawyer must show in traffic court that you did not commit any violations.
If you prefer to attend traffic school, you’ll still be required to pay the fee for the violation, plus the traffic school fee and a court administrative fee. However, you won’t receive points against your driving record.
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Who Should Pay the Ticket if the Driver Is Not the Registered Owner?
According to California law, the driver named for the violation is accountable for the ticket and not the car’s owner. But the city will still mail the ticket to your registered address if someone else was using your car when they were caught on camera running a red light.
You can contest the ticket and state that you were not the person using the car at the time. However, you’ll need to provide evidence. Unfortunately, you will be presumed guilty due to the red light camera evidence, so you must have an alibi. A lawyer can help you with this.
What Are the Penalties for Running a Red Light?
Running a red light is one of California’s main causes of car accidents. You’ll have to face various penalties when you run a red light. You can be charged with a moving violation or even face criminal charges if you’re involved in an accident.
The penalty for all traffic violations in California starts with a “base fine.” But the actual fine you’ll be paying will be the base fine plus various fees and surcharges. These surcharges can result in a considerable increase in the total cost.
The base fines for a stop sign and stop light violations are:
- $35 for an illegal right turn at a red light
- $35 for running a stop sign
- $100 for running straight through a flashing or solid red light
Points on Your Record
You will also receive one traffic violation point to your driving record for a stop sign or red light violation. But you can avoid this point and lower the amount of your fine by going to and completing traffic school.
The proper authorities can also suspend your license if you have accumulated too many points, as the state will consider you a negligent operator. Having the following point counts could trigger a suspension:
- 4 points in 12 months
- 6 points in 24 months
- 8 points in 36 months
In some circumstances, a stop sign or red light violation can result in a reckless driving conviction. And if these violations led to the death of another individual, you can be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
How Can You Beat a Red Light Speeding Camera Ticket?
Many drivers believe they can’t fight a red light camera speeding ticket because of the photo evidence. That’s simply not true. There are several defense strategies that your lawyer can utilize to beat this ticket:
- Ask for evidence that the camera was working properly: You can demand proof that the red light camera device was working properly on the day the camera captured the photo evidence, and the ticket was issued. Your lawyer might be able to show the device was not working correctly that day.
- Challenge the photo’s clarity: You can also dispute the clarity of the image and argue that the said evidence is not satisfactory enough to convict you. Maybe the photo has poor quality, or the weather condition wasn’t good. Show that the identity of the driver photographed running the red light can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Argue the necessity of running the red light: Your lawyer could also argue that it was necessary for you to run the red light to prevent bigger injury to yourself or another individual or to dodge an accident. It’s possible that your argument can convince the judge that your actions were necessary and you’re not guilty.
There’s no question that red light speeding cameras have their pros and cons. But no one wants to be ticketed for a traffic violation they didn’t deserve. Fight your red light camera traffic ticket with the help of a good lawyer.
Could My Red Light Camera Ticket Be Part of Corruption?
This is a hard charge to prove, as we would need to provide evidence of how the cameras and timings get programmed over time. It is exceedingly unlikely that a single red light camera ticket could expose abuse of the system as a cash grab.
Another perpetrator of corruption could be the red light camera company. Usually, a city enters into a contract with a camera provider. There may be stipulations in that contract about required revenue and light timings that force officials to play to their tune to keep the system functioning.
While this situation might seem unlikely, red light camera corruption has occurred in Chicago. There could be a case for corruption if:
- A pattern of suspicious red light camera tickets is found
- A ticket violates federal and state rules on light timings
- The light timings are changed regularly to make them unpredictable
Information to Know About Red Light Tickets in California
If you run through a red light in California, you could face a fine or points on your record. Many state traffic lights have these cameras to catch those violating the law. When you receive a ticket, even if you believe you aren’t guilty, you must respond appropriately and quickly to the ticket.
If you receive a ticket, there are several things you should know. They include:
- Sensors can trigger red light cameras.
- Third parties manage many red light cameras.
- Too many red light tickets can lead to a driving suspension.
- You can fight your red light ticket in court.
Sensors Can Trigger Red Light Cameras
As mentioned earlier, red light cameras are triggered once a driver goes over a sensor when the light turns red. Sometimes, the driver might know right then they have been caught by a red light camera. Drivers can realize the camera caught them because the red light cameras will flash when a driver disobeys the red light. Once the traffic camera collects the evidence needed, the registered vehicle owner will receive the ticket through the mail.
Red light tickets also capture the person driving the vehicle during the traffic violation. The photographic evidence can help determine who was driving during the violation and who should receive the fine and points on their license.
Third Parties Manage Many Red Light Cameras
Cities don’t manage most of the red light cameras in California. In most cases, third parties take responsibility for installation and management. Unfortunately, many of these third-party companies are motivated by the profits these traffic tickets can bring to their company. As a result, the funds from the traffic tickets go back to the third-party company while the city or municipality receives only a small portion.
Since third-party companies can be driven by profit, they want their cameras to track many red light violators so that they can make more money.
Too Many Red Light Tickets Can Lead to a Driving Suspension
While a red light ticket can cost you money by having to pay a fine, it also comes with other ramifications. Any traffic ticket you receive from a police officer can put points on your license. This is the same for red light tickets. If someone received enough red light tickets, their license could get suspended.
This is more costly because they will have to deal with being unable to drive, which could cost them their job. Or, the drivers might have to pay an attorney to remove the points from their license.
You Can Fight Your Red Light Traffic Ticket in Court
Because technology runs red light cameras and not an actual human being, ticket generators have room for error. There are common circumstances where red light cameras make mistakes. They include:
- Giving a red light ticket when someone makes a legal right-hand turn on red.
- If someone else was driving your car when the camera generated the ticket.
- The picture of who was driving isn’t clear.
If you cannot get your fine or points completely dismissed, you can fight to have them reduced. If you face a red light ticket, an attorney can defend you to help reduce your fines and points on your license or dismiss.
Hire a Local Red Light Speeding Camera Lawyer
The Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys at Simmrin Law Group understand the legislation and procedures needed to fight back in court. We can also come up with compelling arguments against any photo evidence set against you from a red light speeding camera.
You won’t even need to be present during the hearing. We can go to traffic court on your behalf. Call us today or fill out our online contact form to schedule a FREE consultation to find out how we can help.