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Red Light Ticket While Trying To Beat The Yellow

The red-light ticket is the most often issued or mailed ticket in California, and the fine in CA is the highest in the Nation. It’s also one of the most expensive traffic infractions. If you just pay the fine, not counting traffic school, you will pay between $480 and $500 depending on which county you received the ticket, and traffic school could easily add another $60 to $100 just because the light went from yellow to red while you were passing through the intersection.

Wow, That Was a Short Yellow!

Ever wonder why some yellow lights change more quickly than others? The speed limit along the route you are traveling determines the length of time a light stays yellow. According to the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), if the speed limit is 25 mph, the light is set for 3 seconds, 35 mph, 3.6 seconds, and for a 45-mph speed limit, the light will stay yellow for 4.3 seconds. 4.3 seconds is a long time if you count 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi…but, when you’re trying to make it before the light turns red, it goes a lot quicker, or so it seems.

If you’re willing to pay nearly $600 for a red-light ticket, where you were going must have been very important. There is another way, consult with a traffic ticket attorney and if they advise it, you should make the State prove your guilt. You should fight the ticket. There are just too many variables, to accept a $600 ticket and pay the fine, plus Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) points or traffic school.

Wait, What? How Could I Beat a Red-Light Ticket?

You may think because a camera caught you and law enforcement officers (LEO) have still photos and video, they can’t be beaten. Well, the truth is that camera red-light tickets are statistically easier to beat than those issued directly by LEO. A camera adds more room for error than does a traffic trooper issued ticket because, before it was your word against a police officer, probably one that is in court quite often, with a long, illustrious career on the force. When it’s just your word against LEO’s chances are the judge will take the LEO’s word, unless LEO doesn’t show up for court. Then, the Constitution comes into play, and your rights would be violated if you could not face your accuser.

Red-Light Defense Strategies

As mentioned above, every intersection with a yellow-light, red-light has timed intervals governed by MUTCD. The first thing to check is the light at the intersection where you go the ticket. Go back with a stopwatch and check the accuracy several times. If the time is decreased from the MUTCD regulation, after repeatedly checking the time, get a video camera and let the timer on it prove your innocence.

When a speed and safety survey is conducted along that roadway, it may be determined that the interval for the yellow light needs to be longer and CALTRANS can act on that recommendation; however, the yellow light interval can never be shortened without legislation to change the CA Vehicle Code and the MUTCD. A study done in San Diego a few years ago showed that increasing the length of the yellow light by just one second, reduced tickets from 3000 to 500 and significantly reduced traffic accidents at that intersection as well, which is what it really should be about, safety not revenue.

Another problem with photo-enforced red-light tickets is that it must be reviewed by LEO before it can be sent out. If LEO did not examine the ticket and endorse it before it was issued to you, it is not valid and must be dismissed.

Consult a Local Traffic Ticket Attorney

A $600 (possible after the cost of traffic school) red-light ticket is often worth hiring a lawyer to fight. You should always consult a lawyer about every traffic ticket and if they advise you against fighting it, go ahead and pay the fine, accept traffic school, and move on. However, if you already have a conviction within the last 18 months, or traffic school is not an available for you, make the State prove you were wrong. Call Bigger & Harman for consultation, (661) 349-9300, or send an email:

Belen P., Daly City, on Yelp wrote, “I was so nervous as this was my first speeding ticket ever. To make matters worse it was at 100 mph, so I wasn't sure what to do. Thankfully I chose the right firm, and from beginning to end, they were more than helpful and honest about all possible outcomes, which made me feel more at ease about my ticket. In the end, my ticket was dismissed.”

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