Red Light Camera Ticket
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Early morning or after work commutes can be brutal. Traffic lights seem to last forever at these hours and the last thing anyone wants to do is to wait interminably for the light to change. But as you approach a traffic light controlled intersection, the light turns yellow so you speed up. The light turns red as you enter the intersection but you get through safely. About two weeks later, a citation appears in the mail. You are being fined hundreds of dollars for running the red light, and there is a photo of your car.
The ticket also indicates the name of the court and the time and date for a court appearance, if you wish to challenge it. Most motorists assume they are guilty of the violation and prefer to avoid the inconvenience of appearing in court and defending their case, and would rather pay the fine and attend traffic school, if they are eligible. For others who face possible license suspension or liability in a civil case if there was an accident, they may wish to contest the ticket.
Can You Fight Red Light Camera Tickets?
A red light camera ticket case presents interesting legal issues. For example, most photos are grainy or of poor quality and it is difficult if not impossible to identify the driver. The camera and the photo itself have been the issues in many red light camera cases.
- Right Against Self-Incrimination
You do not have to testify in a criminal case or to offer any evidence. You have a right not to incriminate yourself so the court cannot require you to say anything such as asking you if you were the driver and if not, who was driving? It is the prosecution’s burden to prove you were the driver and that you ran the light.
- Photo as Evidence
Before a photograph can be offered as evidence in any case, criminal or civil, the party offering it must first show a foundation for introducing it. Otherwise, it is pure hearsay and should not be admitted. Hearsay evidence is an out-of-court statement not given under oath that is being offered for the truth of the matter asserted. In other words, the photograph being offered is a statement, not subject to cross-examination nor made under oath, that you were driving the car and you ran a red light.
The prosecutor must have a witness testify who can offer testimony that the camera was operating properly on the day in question, at the particular intersection, and according to whatever standards govern it. For example, there must be proof that the camera was maintained properly and testimony given regarding how the camera system works at the intersection.
- Are Cameras Legal?
An interesting issue is whether these cameras violate your right to due process and equal protection. You have a right to cross-examine witnesses against you, and merely offering a photo into evidence without more violates that right.
Also, there are studies that show that not all drivers who run red lights are given tickets. Further, these tickets are given to the car’s registered owner who may not have been driving that day.
Cameras are on the Way Out
Good news for motorists is that red light cameras are being used less and less, given their costs and court rulings that require court appearances by the camera’s representatives before the photo can be admitted as evidence.
Also, police officers must also appear to give testimony about their role in the camera’s maintenance and operation. In many cases, the city that issued the ticket may choose to dismiss the case or not offer anyone to testify at your trial, forcing the judge to dismiss your case. The great cost in prosecuting these cases is making a number of municipalities reassess their use of this method of law enforcement.
Retain a Traffic Ticket Lawyer
Defending yourself in court is difficult since you must know the law, how to challenge evidence and how to cross-examine witnesses. Many traffic ticket lawyers charge very reasonable and competitive fees. If you face a red light camera ticket that could cost you over several hundred dollars, and loss of your driving privileges for causing an accident or for accumulating too many points, consult a California traffic ticket lawyer to discuss your legal options.