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It Just Got a Lot Tougher to Get out of Red-Light Camera Tickets in California

State high court ruled that such evidence is "presumed authentic" unless a defendant can successfully challenge it.

Patch file graphic.
Patch file graphic.
The California Supreme Court made it easier Thursday for prosecutors to use red-light camera evidence against drivers who fail to stop at traffic signals. 

In a ruling issued in San Francisco, the court unanimously said that images and data automatically recorded by the cameras have a "presumption of authenticity" similar to the presumption for other types of photos and videos.

Under the presumption, the camera evidence is considered valid unless a defendant can successfully challenge it. 

The court ruled in the case of Carmen Goldsmith, who was convicted in Los Angeles County Superior Court of a traffic infraction and fined $436 for failing to stop at a red light at an intersection in Inglewood in 2009. 

The only prosecution witness in the non-jury trial was an Inglewood police investigator who had not personally witnessed the incident, but who had worked in red-light camera enforcement for six years and who testified about how the system worked. 

In her appeal, Goldsmith argued that prosecutors should have been required to provide more evidence to authenticate the cameras. 

She also claimed the recordings should have been considered second-hand hearsay evidence. 

But the state high court upheld a California law that provides that red-light camera evidence has the same presumption of validity as other types of photos and videos. 

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote that from the investigator's testimony, "it can be reasonably inferred that the (camera) system automatically and contemporaneously recorded the images of the intersection and the date imprinted on the photographs." 

"No elaborate showing of accuracy is required" for the automatically produced images and data, the chief justice said. 

The court also rejected Goldsmith's claim that the camera evidence was hearsay, which is defined as second-hand evidence about a statement made by a person.

The panel said the automatically generated camera images and data were presentations of information by a machine, not a person. 

"The evidence code does not contemplate that a machine can make a statement," Cantil-Sakauye wrote, quoting from an earlier ruling. 

Under the red-light camera system, which is authorized by the California Vehicle Code, drivers are identified through photos of their license plates. 

—Bay City News
nonoise June 08, 2014 at 02:17 PM
Red light cameras were only brought in to make cities some money. Los Angeles and many other cities found out the city was actually losing money. Then they did away with red light cameras. It is all about the money. When cities find out they are losing money on red light cameras they get rid of them.
Ish June 08, 2014 at 05:57 PM
Why are my comments being ???
Ish June 08, 2014 at 05:57 PM
CENNNNSOORREEDD
Ish June 08, 2014 at 05:58 PM
Geez. You can't even say that? It's like Nazi Germany in here.
nonoise June 13, 2014 at 01:18 PM
I notice that sometimes post does not go through the first time. Just right click and copy it in case it does not get posted. Then click paste to put it on a second time. Not sure why that happens. To be safe, just right click and click select all. Right click again and select copy. Then post your comment. If it does not get posted right click and select paste. The post usually goes through on the second time around. Not sure if that is a technical problem with the patch website.

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