Red Light Camera Tickets Defeated In California
By Martin Hill

This article has been updated, after some changes in the Fischetti case.

"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:

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. Earlier this year, the City of San Carlos, CA was forced by a court to refund nearly $157,000 to motorists who had gotten fraudulent camera tickets. 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. 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"!

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 website 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. In 2008, defendant Thomas Fischetti beat his second red light camera ticket, based on the requirement that a city must issue warning tickets for a period of 30 days for each camera it installs. The Appeals Court initially ruled that the decision be published, which would have allowed the 12/18/08 ruling to be used as precedent in Orange County cases. However, the city of Santa Ana filed a motion to prevent this from happening. They pled,

"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 ANA, as well as other cities throughout the state". The high court rejected Santa Ana's request, certifying the decision for publication, [See the court's ruling HERE]. Santa Ana appealed the decision and the CA Supreme Court eventually ruled for the city, preventing Fischetti's victory from becoming published case law.

Another defendant, Anna V., beat a Santa Ana red light camera ticket on appeal and had her conviction thrown out based on their lack of complying with the 30-day notice rule. which is covered in CA Vehicle Code Section 21455.5.

The third way motorists have beaten these tickets is challenging the cities illegal contracts. One such notable case was in San Diego, CA in September 2001, when Judge Ronald Styn tossed out 290 camera tickets. In his ruling, Judge Styn stated

"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."

In November 2008, Orange County Superior Court Robert Moss ruled that the City of Fullerton violated state law based on the contingency fee they payed the red-light camera vendor. Judge Moss ruled that the defendant Franco have his conviction reversed:

"Vehicle Code section 21455.5(g) provides that a contract between a governmental agency and a manufacturer or supplier of an automated enforcement equipment may not include a provision for payment of compensation to the manufacturer or supplier based on the number of citations generated or percentage of revenue generated as a result of the use of the equipment. The purpose of the statute is to avoid an incentive to the camera operator, as a neutral evaluator of evidence, to increase the number of citations issued and paid through use of the equipment."

In 2007, Judge Ken Schwartz dismissed the conviction of Nelson Nagai in Los Alamitos, stating "this is a revenue driven pricing system, in direct violation of Vehicle Code section 21455.5(g)(1). Vehicle Code Section 21455.5 is to be strictly construed.The statutory requirements are intended to provide protection to the motorist public, and a conviction cannot result from a violation of its statutory provisions. Accordinbgly, the defendant... must be found not guilty".

Cities have continued to violate the law regarding contracts, however, despite these numerous court rulings. To add insult to injury, some courts are blatantly ignoring the law and ruling against defendants in appeals which challenge the illegal contracts.

The excellent website has a page on red light cameras, with a list of question to ask the witness (officer) in court. I also have a red light camera page with information here.. I recently discussed fighting traffic tickets with Michael Badnarik on GCN; Here is the Show Notes page, with a lot of interesting and useful information.

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

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"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

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