During the past 10 years, you have seen a proliferation of Red Light Cameras issuing citations for running a red light.  It works something like this.  It takes a photo of the front of your vehicle before you cross the limit line identifying your license plate number, your location before entering the intersection when the light turned red, and a good photo of the driver.  Then it takes a second photo of you in the middle of the intersection while the light is still red.  The lenses they use on the cameras are intimidating and show almost every whisker on your face so there is little doubt about who the driver is when the compare the photo to your drivers license photo.  Using this evidence as proof that you ran a red light, they, they send you a citation with photos in the mail for about a $500 fine in California

   There are a number of ways to fight this citation.  But before you read on, let me explain that I am not an attorney and do not have the right to practice law.  The arguments I am going to discuss here are from general observations, or hearsay from other sources.

    First, if you realize that you are about to run a red light, hold you hand over your face before the camera can catch a face shot.  In a case like this you are likely to receive a "Snitch Ticket" in the mail  You can identify a "Snitch Ticket" because it does not have the address of the court on it.  Or if it says in small print on the back "Do not contact the court", you do not have a real ticket - it's a police trick to get you to identify the driver, who will then be cited and fined.  The first thing you must realize is that you are not required to identify the driver and the court should protect your right otherwise it could lose an appeal of the case.  That is California, but other States could use "Snitch Tickets"  when they can not identify the driver and they are looking for new sources of income.

   I have often thought of growing a beard, or showing up in court dressed as a transvestite and claiming that photo was not me.  But then I don't get red light tickets so I don't have to embarrass myself in public.   Maybe I should grow a beard before I renew my next drivers license and photo opportunity.

   There are dozens of ways to fighting the citation.  In each case where the city has lost, they file a request to not have the case published, therefore you can not use the case as "just cause" to have your case dismissed.  However you can use the case and present the same argument in court and if presented correctly, you might win your case.  It is up to the judge and every judge rules differently. 

   One method is to argue the camera has not been calibrated within a reasonable time, but the officer  is usually prepared to testify that the cameras are tested weekly by him or his team; and tested by the camera operators three times a week to replace the memory card and film. This information is recorded in a "Technician Log".  That is right, the camera operator is not the city, it is a private corporation that installs the cameras, takes the photos, reviews the photos and sends selected photos to the police department for further review and a citation is issued by the police department based upon the evidence presented in the photos. 

   This brings up the constitutional right to have the right to cross examine your accuser in court.  Since the officer was not present when the photos were taken, you can request the person operating the cameras be present in court for you to cross-examine.  You do this in advance of the court date.  If the photographer is not present upon your request, you will most likely have the case dismissed.  But not always, it depends upon the judge's ruling.  You might also use this argument in court even if you did not request the photographer be present.  The officer will argue that it is his responsibility to evaluate the evidence and determine if a citation should be issued.  Your argument should be that "admission of the photographs showing defendant's violation constituted improper hearsay, and the photos do not fall within the business records exception to the hearsay rule.  Then it is up to the judge to rule on the case.

   Another argument that has recently been given credibility.  The law says that you can't be find unreasonable fines for violations.  In my opinion where we have a recession and many people may be working for minimum wages, a $500 fine is excessive.  Again it is up to the judge's ruling.

   Another argument is to ask the Judge if you can get a fair trial in his court.  Your judge will assure you that you can.  Then ask who pays the judges salary and claim that there is a conflict of interest in this courtroom.  I don't think you will be very popular with the Judge, but you might get a laugh out of the spectators sitting in court.

   A lot of red light infringements are defeated in court because of mechanical things like the yellow light was not long enough for the speed limit.  Take a video of the cameras and make sure they are working properly.  Different speed limits require different lengths of time the yellow light must stay on before turning red.

   A new very popular tactic has been to file to have the motion dismissed or squashed because the citation "Has no Standing".  What this means; is the citation considered a criminal or civil case?  If it is civil, it must either be a Tort or Contract law violation.  Since this is not a Tort violation, most courts consider citations a civil case and a violation of contract law.  In a civil case there has to be a violation of a contract and harm or damage relative to the violation of the contract.  What is the harm in running a red light?  What is the harm or damage for not wearing a seat belt?  How do you value the damage to determining a judgment value?  Most judges will dismiss your red light ticket based upon this argument.

   Another argument used by attorneys defending clients.  They get the officer to claim that the purpose of the camera is for safety and to reduce the number of accidents at that intersection.  Then ask the officer to explain to the court who is Net Flex, and what roll do they play.  Then ask the officer if Net Flex has a contract with the city guaranteeing them a percentage of income off every citation.  Then claim their motivation is for revenue and not safety.  When the officer has stated two different reasons for the camera there is a conflict and the case should be dismissed. Again you at the mercy of the Judge's ruling. 

   Another argument that can be made in incorporated cities.  The law says that any corporation must be represented by; an attorney, a member of the Law Board, the City Prosecutor, or the District Attorney in the case of an incorporated city.  If the Officer is representing the city, ask him if he has a license to practice law in your State?  Few officers are attorneys and you can claim that he is practicing law without a license in an incorporated city.  This argument may not apply if the officer is a County Sheriff or Highway Patrol because they are not employed by the individual incorporated cities.  But I suspect most officers arguing cases for red light citations are city Police Officers.

   There are many good web sites out there to help you prepare for defending yourself against a red light citation.  One is that lists many cases where the defendant has won his case upon appeal and the arguments can be used in your case.  Also, the Beartrap Guide is a good listing of the red light cameras.  The Beartrap Guide is for professional truck drivers and lists most of the Beartraps (speed traps) on the Interstate Highway System.  There is also a new section that lists many of the red light cameras within the cities.

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