High Court Rules that Red-Light Camera Evidence is Presumed Authentic

June 5, 2014 · 22 comments

The California Supreme Court made it easier today 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.

1 Mr. Moses June 6, 2014 at 12:45 AM

Red Light Cameras are a money sucking scam with usually half the proceeds going to out of state companies that run these cameras. In fact they are dangerous as everyone’s driving patterns abruptly change when they come to intersections with them. When I drive around Fremont, San Jose, and Napa, where they use these cameras heavily (especially Fremont), the “locals” who know the intersections with the cameras change their pattern so abruptly that I almost get into an accident every time I’m driving around there.

These cameras almost NEVER catch the “real” baddies, the one’s who just literally punch a red light. What they do “catch” are people who misjudged a yellow light or who do not wait “3 seconds” (as judges have ruled) after stopping on a turn on red (who would actually stop and count 3 Mississippi in real life on a right turn?? That’s more distracting than texting) . Sorry but it isn’t right to fine people, including fees, something like 600 bucks and a point on their driving record for that. You say it is the law? Well, nobody would have agreed to the level of fines in a system that is so inflexible. We make the laws. In fact, recently, in Napa the locals revolted and temporarily stopped using them. However, the only reason why that happened was because things didn’t go as planned. They were hoping to catch “tourists” who wouldn’t fight and just pay the fine as part of their “vacation” expenses to jolly good Napa Wine Valley adding loot to the city coffers. Instead, the locals got hurt worse. You gotta love human nature…lol.

2 happy June 6, 2014 at 3:39 AM

You sound like the exact type of person the system was designed to catch.

3 MadMom June 6, 2014 at 4:45 AM

After looking at the photos from the previous story, I’m glad the cameras are there. I’m so tired of all of the red light runners. Such a selfish and stupid thing to do.

4 ANON June 6, 2014 at 6:28 AM

“Instead, the locals got hurt worse.”

Boo Hoo– the locals knew they were there & they were not smart enough to obey the law. When the first ones came out 20+ yeras ago in SF–they only took photos of the front plate–30+% of the cars int hat city had no front plate. Then the put cameras behind the car.

5 KenInConcord June 6, 2014 at 6:33 AM

I love the story about a kid stole the license plate off a police mans personal car, put it on his car and he drove through every speed trap camera and red light camera in town repeatedly.

I’m sure he was presumed guilty until proven innocent .

Ken D.

6 annon June 6, 2014 at 6:57 AM

@1 Hard to change bad habits. The high fines are there to keep it from getting worse. With no fines there would be total ignoring of traffic regulations.

7 Jerk June 6, 2014 at 6:58 AM

I don’t like cameras everywhere, but the few morons that seem to have a problem wiping the drool from their chin have ruined it for everybody else.
Just look at that intersection at Galindo / Willow Pass / Concord Blvd freakshow.

8 Silva June 6, 2014 at 7:28 AM

Once I got a letter in the mail from Emeryville, where there are many of these cameras, with two pictures of my husband driving my truck. The first one he was stopped at the light. The second one he was making a right turn. Both showed the light was red. The letter asked if I knew the person driving my truck who had not stopped for the red light. On the time/date stamp it showed that the two pictures were a full minute apart. I ignored (but kept) the letter and heard nothing more about it.

9 common sense June 6, 2014 at 7:29 AM

finally…. common sense wins a battle

10 MadMom June 6, 2014 at 7:31 AM

Maya, the banner ad above this section regarding fighting a red light camera ticket is hysterical. Well placed.

11 Don P - N. Concord June 6, 2014 at 8:29 AM

Red light cameras are purely for raising money, they have nothing to do with safety. It’s already been proven that these cameras INCREASE collisions because when people know the cameras are there, they will slam their brakes at a yellow light to avoid getting a ticket, which ends up causing rear end collisions. Whats worse is the people responsible for these cameras aren’t even law enforcement agents, just some low paid workers who could care less. It’s a complete joke.

12 Cowellian June 6, 2014 at 8:51 AM

Silva, I used to love listening to Len Tillem on KGO, and he spent a lot of time talking about these red light cameras. If you aren’t the driver in the picture, you just have to show that it wasn’t you. They want you to think that you must tell them who was driving, because that makes their job easier.

Since many communities are already using automated license plate readers, I assume that facial recognition software will be next on law enforcement’s agenda.

13 PlayOnWords June 6, 2014 at 8:52 AM

@#1. Drivers change their driving patterns. In other words, drivers obey the traffic laws and drive safely. In doing so they get in the way of and hold up those who don’t.

14 Blink June 6, 2014 at 9:12 AM

The mentality that it’s not important to obey the law, just important not to get caught is wrong….hope they put cameras all over downton concord with the amount of risky driving….those who have a problem with go away

15 Don P - N. Concord June 6, 2014 at 9:32 AM

Cowellian, it’s true that it has to be you in the picture. It’s pretty screwed up. People shouldn’t have to waste their precious time trying to prove their innocence because an automated camera that has no ability to discern who was driving, caught a picture of their car running a red light.

16 PhilthyPHRESH June 6, 2014 at 10:37 AM

The cams are just another way government (in my opinion illegally) taxes people.

17 Subterfuge June 6, 2014 at 11:13 AM

The camera was made by a corporation thus is the off spring of a corporation. According to the Supreme Court corporations are people. There should be grounds here to challenge this ruling at the SCOTUS.

18 @philthy June 6, 2014 at 11:33 AM

So no penalty for breaking the law?

19 Vandy June 6, 2014 at 11:50 AM

Machines never lie. Unless they are programmed to do so.

20 Silva June 6, 2014 at 4:30 PM

Len Tillem cracked us up a lot.

21 Just read above June 6, 2014 at 6:53 PM

Comments to understand American society’s
decline.

22 Cowellian June 11, 2014 at 8:56 AM

FWIW:

Oakland: Red-light cameras brought to abrupt halt
Phillip Matier And Andrew Ross
Updated 7:37 am, Wednesday, June 11, 2014

. . . It turns out that Oakland’s contract with its camera vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems, expired May 20. The city didn’t renew it, in part, because it was a money-loser.

SFGate: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/matier-ross/article/Oakland-Red-light-cameras-brought-to-abrupt-halt-5543220.php

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