Legislators, Lawyers Winning Fight to Render Red Light Cameras Useless

Bill would make it easier to get away with this
Red light-runners are winning a battle to render camera evidence less incriminating in court, the Sacramento Bee's Dan Walters reports.

Sen. Joe Simitian, who represents Palo Alto and San Jose commuters under the watch of the dozens of cameras monitoring Bay Area intersections, has authored a bill that would make the cameras all but worthless as sources of evidence.

​Red light-runners kill 800 people and injure another 137,000 every year in this country. San Francisco officials, along with their colleagues in other California cities, have installed more than three dozen red light cameras to halt this scourge (and bring millions into the city's coffers).

But safety minded bureaucrats are apparently no match for state legislators and plaintiffs attorneys sympathetic to motorists who receive citations based on red light camera evidence. The state senate, with the help of aye votes by San Franciscans Leland Yee and Mark Leno, has approved a bill that would undermine cities' ability to use cameras to protect people from motorists blowing red lights.

Crash in intersection.jpg

According to legendary Bee columnist Walters, (like your host, an alumnus of the defunct Sacramento Union):

The Senate has approved, 31-1, legislation by Democratic Sen. Joe Simitian of Palo Alto to impose much tighter standards on local governments that contract with the private firms for the cameras. The measure, Senate Bill 1362, was stalled -- at least temporarily -- this week in the Assembly Transportation Committee after local government officials complained that its enactment would effectively wipe out the cameras' use by giving motorists additional weapons to fight their tickets. But the committee approved another bill that would reduce fines for illegal right-hand turns on red lights, which comprise the vast majority of red-light camera tickets. 

Already, Walters noted, the use of red light camera evidence had been set back by a recent appellate court decision defining photographs as hearsay unless the actual person operating the camera were to testify:

A milestone on the legal front occurred in Orange County in May when a three-judge appellate panel, in a published decision, declared that red-light camera photos are hearsay, rather than direct, evidence and therefore inadmissible.

That's good news for motorists in a hurry, and dangerous for everyone else.

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