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Could Chicago's Red Light Ticket Settlement Affect California's Law?

The City of Chicago recently settled an approximate $39 million class-action lawsuit brought by the city’s residents because, in large part, they violated their own and Federal laws and compliance standards set for yellow light time standards and red-light tickets. In addition, at least one city official was convicted of embezzlement and other corruption. For nearly 1.2 million drivers, the settlement will repay at least half of the ticket fine after an almost two-year delay, though it still requires the City Council’s approval.

What Happened?

There appears to have been many foul-ups in this red-light ticket saga. First, the yellow lights in many parts of the city were set to change to red quicker than the national standard and the city continued to issue millions of dollars in tickets even though they were aware of that fact, many cameras didn’t work properly, and then, the city did not issue a second notice before it made its residents pay a 100% late fee before it would be authorized to do so according to its own rules. In 2016, the city tried to rescind the requirement to send the second notice, nearly a year after the class-action lawsuit had begun. This move seems to have just bolstered the residents complaint against the city.

The city’s lawyers have advised the city to make the settlement now rather than face a possible $250 million penalty after a trial. It will just need the City Council’s approval to finalize the agreement. Some of the city’s officials will be happy to see it over with because they believe it was poorly handled from the start. As one Councilman put it, "What I can tell you is, 'I told you so,'" the chairman of the Transportation Committee said, "If you recall, years ago I said the whole red-light camera issue was more about revenue than it was about public safety."

In a Chicago Tribune study, it was discovered that the red-light cameras made it more dangerous, at many intersections that had not had many problems, there was an increase of rear-end collisions by 22%. So, perhaps the transportation chairman had a point.

The settlement appears to sanction not paying your tickets, as those who paid their fines will be reimbursed half of what they paid, whereas, those who did not pay the fine for the ticket will be exonerated or have the fine forgiven.

The Embezzlement or Bribe

One city official took what is estimated to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks from Redflex Traffic Systems Inc of Arizona to bring the red-light cameras to Chicago. While overseeing the program, he received $2000 each for nearly 400 red-light cameras for which the city made millions in red-light ticket fines. Redflex has agreed to repay the city $10 million for their part in the fiasco.

How Will this Affect California Red-Light Tickets?

In many municipalities in CA, there has been inconsistent enforcement of red-light tickets. In fact, one LA newspaper has advocated ignoring red-light tickets for more than two years in LA, but to pay those in Inland Empire and Orange County. Exactly how the Chicago settlement will affect CA municipalities and their red-light ticket laws remains to be seen, but since the fine is nearly $500 and a conviction can affect your “good drivers’” insurance discount, it would be advisable to consult a traffic ticket lawyer before you pay the fine and accept traffic school.

Hire a Central Valley Attorney

If you contemplate fighting a red-light ticket in LA, call Bigger & Harman for a free phone consultation to determine your options. Bigger & Harman offers a no-obligation phone consultation for prospective clients who have received a traffic ticket. Bigger & Harman are traffic ticket defenders in LA, SLO, San Bernardino, and Riverside, as well as all the Central Valley counties, Kern, Tulare, Kings, etc.

Call Bigger & Harman, 661-349-9300 to discuss your situation or email: attorney@markbigger.com

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