Photo Red Light Defenses
Defending a Photo Red Light Ticket
Our attorneys defend Automated Photo Enforcement tickets regularly. We employ every legal defense there is and if there is any legal grounds to get the ticket dismissed, we will find it. If you have been charged with a ticket where Automated Photo Enforcement was used, trust no one else. We are constantly keeping up on new law and finding new ways to dismiss Photo tickets. The following are just a few of the many defenses we use when fighting Photo tickets.
The prosecution has the burden of proof in a Photo Red Light ticket and the defendant has 5th Amendment Rights. This means that the prosecution must prove that the person in the Automated Enforcement Photos is, in fact, the person named on the citation. The defendant has no obligation to admit that they are the driver or to make any statement whatsoever.
We contest tickets based on the prosecution’s inability to prove the identity of the driver beyond a reasonable doubt. If the photo is grainy, unclear you have a good defense.
If you are not the driver, you have no obligation to tell the prosecution who the actual driver is, even if you know. See our article on snitch tickets for more information on this issue.
Contesting the Violation
The prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a violation occurred. For a violation of the red light statute (CVC 21453) the code requires that the light is red when the vehicle crosses the limit line or enters the intersection. If the bumper is even touching the limit line when the light is still yellow, the person is Not Guilty of the offense. If the video does not establish that a violation occurred beyond a reasonable doubt, the ticket will be dismissed. We look at whether its too close to call or the angle is poor and does not sufficiently show that the bumper was not past the line when the light turned red.
The prosecution and citing agency must meet the mailing requirements or else the ticket will be dismissed. There are several rules that govern this issue, but generally speaking, the citation must be mailed to the defendant within 15 days of the date of the alleged violation. See California Vehicle Code Section 40518. We commonly get tickets dismissed on this ground.
Must Be a Clear Picture
California Vehicle Code 210 requires that the Automated Enforcement Photo used to identify the driver be a “clear photograph.” If it is not sufficiently clear under the code, the ticket will be dismissed. This is one of the most common ways we get them dismissed.
Before a municipality can erect and use Automated Photo Enforcement equipment to gather evidence for purposes of issuing citations, they must initially comply with public notice requirements informing the people of that city of the existence of the program. During a Photo Red Light trial, the prosecution must show that they have complied with all of these requirements or the ticket will be dismissed. For a list of the requirements see California Vehicle Code Section 21455.5.
Minimum Yellow Change Interval
In an Automated Photo Enforcement case the prosecution must show that the particular red light in question complied with the Minimum Yellow Change Interval Timing as defined in the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The Yellow Change Interval refers to the amount of time a light is yellow before it turns to red. If the prosecution cannot show that the set of lights in question complies with the MUTCD, the ticket will be dismissed. The Minimum Yellow Change Interval is determined by the speed limit on the road where the photo red light is located. See the following chart to determine how long the light had to be yellow in your case.
Objecting to the Admissibility of the Evidence
One of the main defenses in an Automated Photo Enforcement case is making timely legal objections to the evidence the citing agency attempts to admit at trial. If the judge cannot consider the evidence, the ticket must be dismissed. Over the past few years, there have been several Superior, Appellate, and Supreme Court cases that have limited the type of evidence the prosecution can use at trial. We are familiar with all of this law and use it to gain an advantage in court.
Types of Evidence in Photo Red Light Cases
An Automated Photo Enforcement ticket may include the following items of evidence
- Testimony of the citing officer including a statement that they are familiar with the system taking the photos, that it meets notice requirements, and that it was issued within 15 days of the violation.
- Written statement of the “technician” who checks the system for errors every 30 days.
- A statement of any maintenance work performed on the system at or near the date of violation.
- Photos of depicting the alleged violation
- Video of the alleged violation
- Data on the violation such as timing of the yellow light, date, time of day, location, and timing of the violation.
- Foundation statements of the technician stating that the system was working properly on the date of the violation.
Grounds for Objections
- Hearsay – The evidence submitted is an out of court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted and does not fall with in one of the enumerated exceptions in the California Evidence Code.
- Foundation – The officer did not lay a proper foundation for the admittance of the proffered evidence.
- Confrontation Clause – The officer testifying did not have sufficient knowledge of the system and thus, testimony of the technician is required since criminal defendants have a right to confront all witnesses testifying against them in court.
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