2/23/2011Fourth California County Rejects Red Light Camera Evidence
Courts representing a quarter of the California population question the admissibility of red light camera evidence.
A consensus is growing among the appellate divisions of the California Superior Court that red light camera evidence currently offered by private companies does not meet the appropriate legal standard of proof. In December, a three-judge appeals panel in San Bernardino handed down a unanimous decision reversing the photo ticket issued to motorist John Macias.
Macias received a ticket in the mail after his car was photographed in Victorville on January 10, 2009 making a slow right-hand turn at a light that had been red for 0.36 seconds. His attorney, Robert D. Conaway, argued that when San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy Baker testified as a witness against Macias, Baker had no personal knowledge of the facts of the case. As such, his evidence was hearsay.
Baker countered that he had attended a 20-hour seminar provided by Redflex Traffic Systems, the for-profit Australian company that runs all aspects of the photo ticketing program for Victorville. Under questioning, Baker had no idea whether the photographs he brought to court had ever been encrypted or compressed. He did not know whether the Redflex technicians who worked on the camera system were certified or qualified in any way. The trial judge found Baker's testimony sufficient and convicted Macias. The three-judge panel disagreed, insisting that Baker's evidence was not sufficient under the law.
"He did not, and could not, attest that the photos or videos were true representations of what they purported to depict because he had no such personal knowledge," the appellate judges wrote. "In short, Deputy Baker failed to provide any of the evidence necessary to lay a foundation for the admission of the photographs or the videotape into evidence... Accordingly, the evidence was inadmissible under the Evidence Code section 1401, and the trial court abused its discretion by admitting it. In the absence of any admissible evidence to support the conviction, the judgment must be reversed."
As photo enforcement lobbyists predicted, the US Supreme Court's Melendez-Diaz case underscoring the importance of the Confrontation Clause has undermined the ability of automated ticketing machines to operate the in the Golden State. Appellate divisions in Alameda, Kern, Orange, and San Mateo counties have also found the images presented in court by private vendors to be inadmissible hearsay. In addition, San Diego's trial court has handed down rulings following the same reasoning. While the decisions only have precedential value, when published, in these counties, the jurisdictions cover a population of over 10 million.
A copy of the decision, courtesy of the highwayrobbery.net website, is available in a 1mb PDF file at the source link below.