How to Beat a Red Light Camera Ticket in California

Written by James Hirby | Fact checked by The Law Dictionary staff |  

The cost of a “red light camera ticket” in California can total up to $500.  This is due to the fact that a driver guilty of this particular infraction of California law must pay for and participate in “traffic school”.   Many experienced people say that they were able to avoid being found guilty of the infraction, avoid getting the ticket, avoid traffic school, and thereby avoid the cost of the fees and school.  It will take some effort but it can happen.

The key to success in this effort is to avoid court.  If the accused is brought to court the accused has to answer the questions posed by the judge else be found in contempt of court, fined, and even put in jail.  Avoiding court means putting a concerted effort by mail with whatever authorities are asking questions.  First item on the mailing agenda is to ask for a copy of the picture that camera took of the offending vehicle.  The point is whether or not the picture clearly identifies who the driver of the car is and whether or not there were any passengers in the car.  If the driver, and therefore, the accused is not clearly identified in the camera picture(s) at all, and the accused legally refuses to answer the question the first time asked by mail, it is often likely that the case will be dropped and the ticket dismissed. But, this is not a guarantee.  When fighting a ticket by mail, the experienced people say that it must be done very carefully, especially if the accused was a passenger and not the driver at the time of the incident.  Those who know recommend that the accused to not tell the police that one was driving or that one was a passenger in the car on the day of the incident. Once this information is learned by the police from the accused’s mailed response, the police will definitely ask who the driver was at that time.  Legally, the accused does not have to answer this question and cannot be forced to provide such an answer.  As one can see, in a court of law, such a question would be so easily avoided.  The picture from the camera is the accuser and must be able to clearly show without a doubt that the accused was definitely the driver at the time of the incident.  The point is to not make the work that the police have to do any easier.  Again, without evidence to the contrary, the police may not even be able to clearly identify that the accused was even a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the incident using the photograph.  The police may pull driver photos of everyone in the accused’s household in an attempt to identify the driver.  If the police are unable to do this successfully, then the incident will likely be dropped.

As an additional area for discounting the photograph, the accused can informally ask for the records of maintenance and its accuracy and ability to successfully identify previous accused people in similar incidents. If the maintenance is flawed and or the camera is not very successful, it puts doubt on the accused’s incident.  Again, experience shows such conditions often get the ticket dismissed.

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