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Supreme Court Okays Red-Light Cameras

In People v. Goldsmith, the Court focused on the evidence used at these proceedings. Carmen Goldsmith received a red-light ticket at an intersection in Inglewood in 2009. She plead not guilty. At her trial, the state's only witness was a police investigator who did not actually see Ms. Goldsmith run the red light. Instead, Officer Dean Young reviewed automated traffic enforcement system (ATES) evidence, basically three photographs and a video, that supported the state's case, and then sought to give sworn testimony that Ms. Goldsmith ran the red light. Ms. Goldsmith objected to Officer Young's testimony, based on lack of foundation and hearsay. Although the court found ample authority that the state did properly authenticate the ATES evidence, the second objection was another matter.

Essentially, hearsay is an out-of-court statement used to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Another aspect of hearsay is personal knowledge. A witness in Kern County traffic court can testify as to what the witness actually saw, and nothing else. Ms. Goldsmith basically argued that since Officer Young did not see her run the red light, he was incompetent to testify against her in Inglewood, Bakersfield or anywhere else in California, because he was relying on an out-of-court statement.

The court disagreed, noting that the photographs and video were not "statements" in a legal sense. Just like an officer can rely on a radar gun in a speeding trial, the officer could rely on the photographic evidence in a red-light camera trial.

Despite the court's ruling, red-light cameras may not be around much longer, as many jurisdictions are removing the devices for other reasons. There are many other possible defenses to red light camera tickets. Get a free phone consultation with an attorney who can discuss what options are open to you.