10/1/2012California Governor Signs Bill Saving Red Light Camera Industry
Legislation exempting red light camera companies from legal challenge signed into law in California.
Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed legislation Friday rescuing California's red light camera companies from several pending legal challenges. The state Supreme Court has been poised to rule on whether defendants have the constitutional right at trial to confront the individuals responsible for generating the photographic evidence produced by automated ticketing machines. As recently as September 17, the state's second-highest court was ready to take up a similar question (view case).
Lobbyists for Redflex Traffic Systems, an Australian company, took credit in emails for authoring provisions of the newly signed law that takes those issues off the table. The new law re-writes the state's evidence code stating that the computer output and images from a red light camera are presumed accurate, even though cameras have ticketed motorists for running green lights or tricked them with signal timing that is deceptive. The National Motorists Association (NMA) lobbied against the camera industry proposal, arguing the creation of a new hearsay exception deprives motorists of a fundamental right to challenge the evidence against them.
Outgoing state Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) lured colleagues into voting for the Redflex legislation by claiming it would rein in red light camera abuses.
"This bill is designed to establish some ground rules around the use of red-light cameras, and make sure that drivers' rights are protected," Simitian said in a statement upon the bill's passage. "We want to be sure that if drivers get a ticket that they shouldn't have, they have a way to contest the ticket that's relatively quick and convenient."
The NMA points out the actual legislation's only effect will be to eliminate a successful method motorists used to successfully contest their citations in court. The protections for drivers in the bill are symbolic, offering no changes to the way automated ticketing systems are currently operated in the Golden State.
The new law makes minor changes to the pre-existing legal requirements for the posting of warning signs. It requires all cities establish their own "uniform guidelines" for ticket issuance by January 1, 2014. These are known as business rules, something every city has already adopted. The most symbolic provisions require only that cities repeat certain phrases before setting up new camera programs.
"Prior to installing an automated traffic enforcement system after January 1, 2013, the governmental agency shall make and adopt a finding of fact establishing that the system is needed at a specific location for reasons related to safety," Senate Bill 1303 states.
The new law contains no enforcement of this provision, nor of a provision stating the systems should not be used for purposes of revenue generation. It mandates the annual production of reports on the number of red light camera citations issued, information already collected by public information requests on highwayrobbery.net. Finally, the bill codifies the practice of private vendors sending "snitch tickets" to vehicle owners in cases where the photographs are not clear enough to send an actual citation. The new law calls them "courtesy notices" and creates a standardized form for their use. Though these notices can be thrown in the trash without consequence, they are worded in such a way as to fool owners into paying the citations anyway.
A copy of the new law is available in a 900k PDF file at the source link below.