Picture this: You are driving down the street, your favorite song is on the radio and you’ve caught the attractive girl to your left staring at least two and a half times. “Nothing can bring me down,” you naively think to yourself as you continue to fly through intersection after intersection, almost forgetting that your brake pedal even exists. You see a yellow light ahead, but decide to keep driving through the intersection. Just as you reach the intersection, the light turns red. Then, suddenly, you see a bright flash from a street camera above and your perfect day is over faster than you can say, “But it was still yellow!”
If you are a Californian and have experienced a similar situation to the one discussed above, you are not alone. Many unfortunate individuals who have been snapped running a red light and ordered to pay a fine upwards of $500 have attempted to appeal their citation. Depending on the city in which you were photographed, you may or may not be exempt from paying this hefty fine.
People v. Khaled
In 2010 in Orange County, Tarek Khaled argued in appellate court that photographs that appeared to show him driving through a red light were inadmissible for two reasons:
- The testifying officer did not actually witness the incident that allegedly took place and;
- The testifying officer was not personally responsible for setting up the camera.
The court held that the photographs taken by the red light camera-which included the date, time and how long the light was red-were inadmissible because the individual who entered that information into the system was not present in court to testify.
Furthermore, the officer that was testifying did not have any personal knowledge of how the automated data was collected. He also did not have knowledge of whether or not the camera was functioning properly at the time of the alleged incident. Under the Sixth Amendment you have the right to confront your accuser, but when your accuser is a machine, this becomes impossible.1 It is for these reasons that the evidence of the traffic violation in this case was thrown out and the case dismissed.2
People V. Goldsmith
In March of 2009 in Los Angeles County, Carmen Goldsmith was sent a ticket after a red light camera photographed her failing to stop at a red light. Goldsmith unsuccessfully challenged her citation in a trial court and was fined $436. She then appealed her case, arguing that courts had previously overturned two local red light cases but the appeal was ultimately denied.3
This week, Goldsmith’s case will be heard before the California Supreme Court in Los Angeles. The outcome in her case will set the precedent for the rest of the state, either rendering red light camera evidence inadmissible once and for all, or allowing these types of traffic tickets to continue to be prosecuted.
How the California Supreme Court Ruling will Impact Californians
If the California Supreme Court rules in favor of Ms. Goldsmith, in order to be convicted for a red light camera violation, the prosecutors will need to use substantial resources. Currently in many cities within Southern California that still use the cameras, an employee of the camera system contractor must appear in court as a witness in order for the evidence to be deemed valid.
The ruling will also have an impact on the cities that are deep in debt and depend on the revenue brought on by the red light citations for funds. According to court papers, the city of Santa Ana’s red light camera system alone generates citations to nearly 2,000 drivers a month, which at a cost of around $500 a ticket, translates into as much as $12 million a year in revenue.4
Tell us What You Think
Do you think people should have to pay a fine if a red light camera catches them running a red light? What do you think about the court ruling in People v. Khaled or People v. Grossman? Will the roads be safer or more dangerous if red light cameras are eliminated? The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich want to know!
Wallin & Klarich can Help You Fight a Red Light Ticket
The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experienced helping clients successfully defend their red light ticket cases. The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich are knowledgeable about the law and will work to present the best possible defense in your case. We understand that any criminal charge against you can be stressful and are here to help.
With offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina, Victorville, Torrance and Sherman Oaks, we can help you no matter where you work or live. Call Wallin & Klarich today at (888) 280-6839. We will be there when you call.
1. [ http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-rights/the-6th-amendment-s-confrontation-clause.html]↩