4 Possible Defenses To Fight Red Light Cameras in Court

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Defenses To Fight Red Light Cameras in Court

Red light cameras work by triggering a camera as a vehicle passes over a sensor in the intersection when the light is red. The camera takes pictures of the vehicle’s front license plate and driver. A citation is then mailed to the vehicle’s registered owner, supposedly after a police officer checks the photo of the driver against the driver’s license photo of the registered owner.

The Driver Liable, Not the Owner

The law states that the driver, not the vehicle’s owner, is liable for the ticket.  In states where the driver—not necessarily the owner—is responsible for the ticket, and the owner was not driving at the time of the violation, the owner can fill out an affidavit, swearing that he or she wasn’t driving when the violations occurred.  This is what some call a snitch ticket.  Reasons why snitch tickets are not enforced. 

Photos

When you get the pictures sent to you examine them to see if the picture of the driver bears any likeness to you and whether the license plate number can be read clearly.

Was The Camera Working Properly?

The government must present evidence of how the camera works and that it was working properly on the day the citation was issued. The prosecution must also present the camera’s photos showing the vehicle’s license plate and the driver, along with the driver’s license photo of the vehicle’s registered owner.

Defense #1 - Authenticate Photos 

If the images are clear, you can consider mounting the following defense: If no employee from the company that maintains the red light camera device shows up to testify, you should object to the photos being admitted into evidence, saying, “Your Honor, since no one has appeared to authenticate the photographic evidence, I object to such evidence for lack of foundation.” If the photographs are excluded, there is no evidence to convict you. (On the other hand, if the judge allows the photos in evidence over this proper objection, you may later have a basis for an appeal if found guilty.)

Defense #2 - Clarity of Photos 

If the judge allows the photos into evidence but the images are not clear, you can consider challenging the photo’s clarity, arguing that the evidence is not convincing enough to convict you. You should not agree to testify unless you can truthfully say that you were not driving the vehicle at the time the picture was taken.

Defense #3 - Safety

If you ran the red light to avoid a serious collision or harm to others, you can try and make that argument, and it’s possible that the judge may find that you acted out of “necessity,” which may be reason enough to find you not guilty.

Defense #4 - No "Photo Enforced" Sign Posted

In some states, another possible defense to a red light ticket is that of missing or non-visible posted signs that are supposed to warn of photo enforcement. First, read the law carefully to find if your state has laws about such warning signs. If you got the ticket in a state that does have specific rules about where and how such warning signs must be posted, go back to the intersection to investigate whether the signs there comply with the law. If they don’t, and you prove that to the court with photos and diagrams, you have a good chance of beating the ticket.

Are Fines Too High? 

Red light camera violation fines vary from state to state.  There has been some speculation that fines are too high in some states and that cameras are being removed because people refuse to pay the tickets.  Should red light camera fines be lowered in California? 

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