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Camera Capers

The California Supreme Court has ruled that the evidence prosecutors use in red-light camera cases is legal, even though the video is not captured by a police officer and, generally speaking, not even subject to a peace officer's review prior to trial. However, if you get a red-light camera ticket in Bakersfield, an attorney can still successfully defend you in a number of situations.

Some jurisdictions define a legal stop as a half-second or full second of no movement. But California has no such law. In the Golden State, if the wheels stop moving, even for the bat of an eyelash, the vehicle has made a legal stop.

This issue often comes into play when a car stops and then makes a right-hand turn. Sometimes, the stop is so brief that the camera does not notice it. The video may be admissible evidence, but the state still has to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidence is unclear, the prosecutor may be hard-pressed to meet the burden of proof.

Some officers issue almost as many warnings as they issue citations, especially for things like a broken taillight or an expired inspection sticker.

One marginal red-light camera violation is running a stoplight in the early morning hours. There is little point in idling the motor for a minute or so when there are no other cars in sight. A camera may also issue a ticket if a motorist stops at the red light, but the nose of the car's bumper is a few inches past the stop line.

Under old rules, yellow lights were tied to the posted speed limit. Caltrans recently ordered yellow lights to be recalibrated according to the prevailing speed. So, the yellow light may be a half- or quarter-second too short. That brief length of time can make a huge difference. West Hollywood lengthened its yellow lights by 0.3 seconds, and red-light camera citations fell 40 percent. In Loma Linda, a one second change brought about a 92 percent reduction.