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It Just Got A Lot Tougher To Get Out of 'Red-Light Camera' Tickets

State high court ruled this week that such evidence is "presumed authentic" unless a defendant can successfully challenge it.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.
The California Supreme Court made it easier this week for prosecutors to use red-light camera evidence against drivers who fail to stop at traffic signals. 

In a ruling issued in San Francisco, the court unanimously said that images and data automatically recorded by the cameras have a "presumption of authenticity" similar to the presumption for other types of photos and videos.

Under the presumption, the camera evidence is considered valid unless a defendant can successfully challenge it. 

The court ruled in the case of Carmen Goldsmith, who was convicted in Los Angeles County Superior Court of a traffic infraction and fined $436 for failing to stop at a red light at an intersection in Inglewood in 2009. 

The only prosecution witness in the non-jury trial was an Inglewood police investigator who had not personally witnessed the incident, but who had worked in red-light camera enforcement for six years and who testified about how the system worked. 

In her appeal, Goldsmith argued that prosecutors should have been required to provide more evidence to authenticate the cameras. 

She also claimed the recordings should have been considered second-hand hearsay evidence. 

But the state high court upheld a California law that provides that red-light camera evidence has the same presumption of validity as other types of photos and videos. 

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote that from the investigator's testimony, "it can be reasonably inferred that the (camera) system automatically and contemporaneously recorded the images of the intersection and the date imprinted on the photographs." 

"No elaborate showing of accuracy is required" for the automatically produced images and data, the chief justice said. 

The court also rejected Goldsmith's claim that the camera evidence was hearsay, which is defined as second-hand evidence about a statement made by a person.

The panel said the automatically generated camera images and data were presentations of information by a machine, not a person. 

"The evidence code does not contemplate that a machine can make a statement," Cantil-Sakauye wrote, quoting from an earlier ruling. 

Under the red-light camera system, which is authorized by theCalifornia Vehicle Code, drivers are identified through photos of their license plates. 

--Bay City News
Tell it like it is June 07, 2014 at 01:21 PM
Here's an idea... fricken take some responsibility as a driver of a vehicle and pay attention and don't run red lights. People who run red lights are either 1) selfish and in a hurry and don't care about the safety of others, or 2) not paying attention cuz they got their head up their butt and doing something other than responsible driving. Red light runners NEED to be held absolutely accountable and punished to the strictest extent of the law!
ATC June 07, 2014 at 02:27 PM
Agreed, Tell it. However, a $500 fine for a California stop on a right turn accomplishes nothing other than revenue for the city and the camera company. A California stop on a right turn does not endanger others in any way (and in fact I see cops doing it all the time) yet it is treated exactly the same as blowing through a red at 40 mph. Logical? No. But common sense in today's society is so rare that it could be considered a superpower. It has been proven that simply extending the time length of the yellow by 1 second is MORE effective at reducing red light violations AND red light accidents, yet many of these camera companies and cities have actually shortened that yellow, thereby increasing the # of tickets. That alone is evidence that safety is not the goal; revenue is.
Desert Dweller June 07, 2014 at 07:14 PM
"Presumed authentic", I think they meant to say presumed guilty. Yup I trust that for profit company that will go out of business without red light violations as nothing but the truth!
ChrisG June 08, 2014 at 10:37 AM
We need stricter enforcement of all violations of the traffic code. Our streets would be so much safer if more tickets were handed out by the police. It is rare to be driving around town and not witness red light running, unsafe lane changes, excessive speeding, etc. I've even seen these things happen right in front of traffic cops and nothing happens. Red light cameras are not the solution. More stringent traffic patrols is the solution for safer streets and better traffic flow. Most people are not good drivers and are very inconsiderate of others using the roads. Re-education through the use of traffic fines seems like the most logical solution. I don't trust red light cameras and also worry about slippery slope constitutional rights issues but if the police are not doing their jobs to keep our streets safe then they are becoming a necessary evil.

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