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Red Light Cameras: California Law or California Hearsay?

By Brian Chase on June 6, 2014 - No comments

california car accident lawyer video testimonialSince the birth of the first red light camera ticketing system was put in place in 1993, there have been legitimate arguments for and against its effectiveness and legal applications. Drivers running red lights account for about 22% of traffic accidents in the U.S., according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and that number was supposed to be drastically reduced after the inception of these devices. Government agencies are in favor of the system due to its ability to pass out tickets without paying police officers to regulate intersections. Drivers are outraged by seemingly random tickets received in the mail by unreliable and arguably illegal methods. No matter which side of the fence you are on, the case People v. Khaled has raised eyebrows and shed light on the improper prosecution of red light camera tickets.

People v. Khaled

The use of photographs and a police officer’s declaration to prove that a motorist ran a red light violated the Evidence Code and the driver’s constitutional right to confront his accuser, ruled the Orange Superior Court Appelate Department.

Tarek Khaled received a citation from Santa Ana police in August 2008. At trial, the prosecution sought to admit photographs that allegedly showed the defendant running a red light. The defense objected on the ground that the photographs, which had certain information entered on them, such as the time and date they were taken, were inadmissible hearsay. Orange Superior Court Commissioner Daniel Ornelas disagreed, admitted the photos and a supporting declaration, and found the defendant guilty.

The appellate panel, comprised of Judges Gregg L. Prickett, Gregory H. Lewis and Karen L. Robinson, said the objection should have been sustained.

Generally, the judges explained, admission of a photograph or videotape requires testimony from the photographer or the person who took the video. In this case, however, the panel explained, the prosecution sought to admit the photos through testimony of a police officer who was familiar with the intersection at which the photo was taken and the procedures used by his department in issuing red light camera tickets, but who “could not establish the time in question, the method of retrieval of the photographs, or that any of the photographs or the video tape were a reasonable representation of what is alleged to portray.”

“No one with personal knowledge testified about how often the system is maintained. No one with personal knowledge testified about how often the date and time are verified and corrected. The custodian of records for the company that contracts with the city to maintain, monitor, store and disperse these photographs did not testify.”

Tarek Khaled did not have to pay his ticket, due to all evidence against him being thrown out the window, and the implications of his case’s outcome point towards confirmation of driver arguments that red light camera tickets are not concrete proof that you have broken the law, and if handled incorrectly, are not admissible evidence. I wonder how many times this situation has taken place and there was not an appeal? How many people have paid for a ticket that was supported by inadmissible evidence?

Red Light Ticket Advice

Red-light ticket cameras are reported to reduce the amount of accidents where they are in use, but some studies say otherwise. If you have been seriously injured in an intersection that has a red light camera, call us at 949-203-3814. An experienced Southern California personal injury lawyer will advise you of your rights and options as well as help you obtain fair compensation for your injuries.

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About the Author: Brian Chase

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