By Martin Hill
"The evils of tyranny are rarely seen but by him who resists it." -John Hay (1872)
An increasing number of motorists in California are doing their research and challenging red-light camera tickets in court. Many have been successful in fighting these tickets. Several of those who were convicted, have appealed their conviction and got it overturned based on the city's failure to comply with the California vehicle code. There are three basic defenses which motorists have used sucessfully to beat these tickets:
- Duration of the yellow light
- Legal Notification required to motorists
- Illegal Contigency Fee Contracts Used By Cities
The first is the legth of the yellow light at red light camera intersections. The law requires the yellow light to remain yellow for a certain number of seconds. Most recently, in San Carlos, CA:
California: Short Yellow Forces Ticket Refund in San Carlos Short yellow time in San Carlos, California forces refund of $156,591 worth of red light camera tickets [TheNewspaper.com 2/5/09].
The same thing hapened in Costa Mesa, CA in 2004, forcing the city to reverse 579 convictions and refund the money to those who had paid the fine.
Error Slams Traffic Tickets Into Reverse
Costa Mesa has to void hundreds of citations issued to red-light runners caught on camera because the yellow signal didn't last the required 4.3 seconds.
L.A. Times, June 12, 2004 ]
Across the country, red light cameras have been shown to increase the number of traffic accidents. In 2002, City of San Diego's own traffic engineers released an official report, concluding that "after photo enforcement, the average RE [rear end] accident rates increased by 62 percent"!
[SOURCE: San Diego Photo Enforcement System Review, PB Farradyne January 14, 2002
Chapter 6 Traffic Engineering and Traffic Operations Improvements  SECTION 6.1.2 LONGER YELLOW CHANGE INTERVALS FIGURE 6.1 PAGE 79 ]
The second way people beat these tickets is holding the city accountable to the state law regarding waiting periods and notifications before tickets are issued. The great website HighwayRobbery.net covers everything you'd ever need to know about red light camera tickets. They explain this issue in detail and post all the briefs and appelate rulings. Recently, a defendant beat his second red light camera ticket and the Appeals Court published the ruling; it's the first time an appelate Court in California has published a ruling on a red light camera case; FILED DECEMBER 18, 2008:
Fischetti won two appeal decisions, one in 2005 and one in 2008. Both are discussed on this page. The 2008 Fischetti Decision - Published! The 2008 decision, on a Santa Ana ticket, clarified the requirement for warning tickets. The decision said that a city must issue warning tickets at each camera it installs, not just the first one in town. The decision has been published, so it can be used in other cities.Another defendant, Anna V., beat a Santa Ana red light camera ticket on appeal and had her conviction thrown out. Here is the court's ruling, FILED AUG. 28, 2008. Courtesy of HighwayRobbery.net.
Per a knowledgeable traffic ticket attorney, "[A published decision from the OC Appellate Division] is binding in Orange County. However, it is relevant authority, but only "advisory" (non-binding) in other counties. So, out-of-county courts can rely on another county's appellate division's published case to affirm and/or dismiss a matter. However, it is discretionary."
The defendant fought the ticket based upon a number of foundational objections, among them that Vehicle Code Section 21455.5 says, in part: "Prior to issuing citations under this section, a local jurisdiction utilizing an automated traffic enforcement system shall commence a program to issue only warning notices for 30 days." (21455.5 doesn't make it clear whether a city having a pre-existing system is required to issue warning tickets when it adds a new camera.) In August 2008 the Appellate Division ruled in favor of Defendant/Appellant Anna V., that Santa Ana erred when it failed to provide 30 days of warning tickets when it added the camera that ticketed the Defendant. The court did not comment upon the defendant's other foundational arguments. The August 2008 Anna V. decision was the second time the Orange County Appellate Division had ruled on the warning ticket issue. The first time was in the 2005 Fischetti case involving a Costa Mesa ticket. In December 2008 the Appellate Division ruled a third time - on a new ticket received by Fischetti, this one in Santa Ana. This decision has not yet been published, so cannot be cited as precedent in other cases, except possibly in Orange County. The general issue of which decisions get published, and which don't, is under study. See nonpublication.com for more information.
The government hacks in Santa Ana were so upset at the 12/18/08 ruling and even moreso at the fact that it was published, that they filed a motion to get it unpublished. Note the desperate tone they used:
"The underlying issue in this case is not only of great concern to the CITY OF SANTA ANA, but also potentially affects the other cities operating such systems...
... "THE CITY OF SANTA ANA was fundamentally denied notice and the opportunity to be heard on an issue that has severe consequences for the CITY OF SANTA AN, as well as other cities throughout the state".
Read their entire brief HERE. Thankfully, The high court rejected Santa Ana's request:
California Appeals Court Rejects Attempt to Unpublish Red Light Camera Decision.
Decision overturning California red light camera ticket remains final and could affect cities throughout the state.
See the court's ruling HERE [Courtesy of TheNewspaper.com]
The third way motorists have beaten these tickets is challenging the cities illegal contracts. One such notable case was in San Diego, CA in 2001:
Judge dismisses 290 red-light camera ticketsHere is an excerpt of the judge's ruling in the San Diego case. Kudos to Judge Ronald Styn for actually upholding the law and not siding with the state revenue machine:
San Diego Union-Tribune / September 4, 2001
SAN DIEGO - A San Diego judge Tuesday threw out 290 traffic tickets issued to motorists by the city's controversial red light camera system, placing the privately operated program in jeopardy along with its millions of dollars in revenue. San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald Styn, ruling in a case that has been closely watched on both sides of a growing debate over the new technology, said that a contingency fee paid to the private operator of the city's system, Lockheed Martin IMS, made the evidence unreliable. "The evidence from the red light cameras will not be admitted," Judge Ronald Styn said in reaffirming his Aug. 15 opinion in a class-action lawsuit against Lockheed Martin.
"In this case, the failure of the city to operate the system as required by the legislature, combined with the contingent fee paid to Lockheed Martin goes far beyond Adams or any of the cases which follow Adams. The Court sees no difference between a contingent fee to a private corporation and a contingent fee paid to an individual. Therefore, the Court's ruling will stand. The evidence from the red light cameras will not be admitted. IT IS SO ORDERED."
DATED; September 4, 2001
Ronald L. Styn
Judge of the Superior Court
More recently, the city of Fullerton, CA had to throw out tickets because of illegal contracts:
Red-light cameras in Fullerton ruled illegal
BY JENNIFER MUIR / The Orange County Register
FULLERTON Fullerton's red-light camera program violates a state law that bars cities from paying vendors based on the revenue their tickets generate, an Orange County Superior Court judge has ruled. The impact of the decision is unclear. The city hasn't stopped issuing citations or changed its contract and has no immediate plans for refunding tickets. The case was not published, so it does not set a legal precedent, but attorneys say it could be used to persuade judges in cases against other cities with similar contracts. In Orange County, seven cities use cameras to enforce red-light rules at intersections, and at least two of them operate under contracts that contain similar or even more questionable provisions than Fullerton's. "It does give logic to arguments we make," said Sherman Ellison, a defense attorney specializing in traffic cases. Ellison plans to ask the court to publish this ruling; something he says has never been done for a red light camera case. Appeal judgments on traffic cases rarely are published; a three-judge panel weighs whether to publish rulings upon request, according to the court. "The shocking part of it is that they refuse to publish the opinions in these cases because it's a huge cash cow in the system," Ellison said, adding "This is the cynicism that's in my heart."
Finer points of the red light camera law are still contested, but its purpose is clear: Camera companies should not have a financial incentive to ticket motorists unfairly. State senators passed the law in 2004 amid concerns that pay-by-the-ticket contracts, which were common across the state, could be manipulated for profit. After the law was revised, vendors devised new contract provisions as a way to guarantee cities wouldn't have to pay out-of-pocket for camera enforcement. At issue in Fullerton is one such provision, which requires the red-light camera vendor to renegotiate its fees annually if ticket revenue isn't high enough to cover what the city pays for the program. Superior Court Judge Robert J. Moss wrote in his Nov. 21 ruling that the payment method amounts to "an incentive to ensure sufficient revenues are generated to cover the monthly fee."
HighwayRobbery.net gives a cogent synopsis of this issue HERE.
In Nov. 2008 a Fullerton defendant won an appellate court decision saying that the City's cost-neutral contract violated Section 21455.5(g) and that the trial court erred in admitting evidence from the camera. The judge wrote:
"...the possibility that fees could be negotiated 'down' if it is determined fees paid to NTS [the vendor] exceed 'net program revenues being realized,' indirectly ties fees to NTS to the amount of revenue generated from the program. If insufficient revenue is generated to cover the monthly fee, the fee could be 'negotiated down.' As such, NTS has an incentive to ensure sufficient revenues are generated to cover the monthly fee."
The previous year in Orange County the Orange County Register published an article ("Who's the Red Light Violator? - Some cities still use outlawed financial incentives to pay red-light camera vendors") which revealed that in January 2007 an Orange County Superior Court Commissioner dismissed a Los Alamitos ticket and "...issued an opinion opposing the agreements (the contract)."
Nevertheless, some courts are blatantly ignoring the law and ruling against appelants in these appeals which challenge the illegal contracts. These L.A. County judges, unlike the Orange County judges, should be removed from office:
California Courts Split on Red Light Camera Contracts
Appellate court in Los Angeles, California rules that red light cameras tickets can be issued by companies with illegal contract arrangements.
I will conclude with information from the great free website HelpIGotATicket.com. This writer has successfully beaten 6 traffic tickets using that free website, one in Superior Court of appeals writing my own legal brief. I highly recommend everyone take the time to learn some of these basics. Stand up for liberty and hold corrupt government accountable to their own laws. Here is the HELPIGOTATICKET.COM page on red light cameras, with a list of question to ask the witness (officer) in court.
I also have a red light camera site with information at NoTrafficCameras.Info I was recently on GCN discussing fighting traffic tickets with Michael Badnarik. Here is the
Show Notes page with a lot of interesting and useful information that is not covered here. Thanks to everyone who fights for liberty and righteousness. Keep the faith!
"Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light." Ephesians 5:10-14
"But he said: Woe to you lawyers also, because you load men with burdens which they cannot bear and you yourselves touch not the packs with one of your fingers". Luke 11:46
"Traffic rules account for most of the contact by average citizens with law enforcement and the courts. Enforcement of laws which are widely perceived as unreasonable and unfair generates disrespect and even contempt toward those who make and enforce those laws." The Appellate Department, in People vs. Goulet
"I would have to say that the cameras themselves have not reduced the number of (injury) collisions that have happened at these intersections," said Elizabeth Yard, an analyst with the San Diego Police Department's traffic division. -- San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/2/01
"And it's true in a few intersections we found a few more accidents than prior to the red light photo enforcement. At some intersections we saw no change at all, and at several intersections we actually saw an increase in traffic accidents." [San Diego Police Chief David Bejarano, ABC News: Nightline (11:35 PM AM ET), 7/30/01, Ted Koppel (Host)]
"The course of history shows that as a government grows, Liberty decreases."- Thomas Jefferson
"All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree."- James Madison
"Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground"-Frederick Douglas (1857)
"God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it". -Daniel Webster
"If thou shalt see the oppressions of the poor, and violent judgments, and justice perverted in the province, wonder not at this matter: for he that is high hath another higher, and there are others still higher than these: 8 Moreover there is the king that reigneth over all the land subject to him. 9 A covetous man shall not be satisfied with money: and he that loveth riches shall reap no fruit from them: so this also is vanity." Ecclesiastes 5:7-9