Camera-enforced red-light tickets are becoming increasingly common in California as more municipalities adopt automated traffic enforcement systems. Bakersfield has eight camera-enforced red-light intersections.
If you've received one of these tickets in Bakersfield, it's crucial to understand why they cost more, potential defenses, and the benefits of possibly attending traffic violator's school. However, it is essential to consult a Bakersfield traffic attorney to discuss the best course of action.
Why a Camera-Enforced Red-Light Ticket Is Twice the LEO-Issued Ticket
In California, a camera-enforced red-light ticket costs approximately $490, which is significantly more than the $238 ticket issued by a law enforcement officer (LEO). Why the difference? It's primarily due to the expenses incurred by Kern County, which must pay a private company to maintain the red-light cameras and equipment.
Also, an experienced traffic patrol officer must view the video and photograph before it is mailed to the vehicle's owner, which occasionally incurs overtime.
Possible Defenses for a Camera-Enforced Red-Light Ticket
Despite the steep fines, camera-enforced red-light tickets aren't always indefensible. Here are a few potential defenses:
Unclear Driver Identity: Contrary to popular belief, the vehicle owner does not have to prove they were not driving at the time of the violation. The burden of proof is on the state to prove who was behind the wheel. Therefore, if the driver's identity is not discernible in the photo, this could potentially be a valid defense.
Likewise, unless asked directly by the traffic court judge after giving up their right to remain silent, the owner doesn't have to reveal who was driving. If the judge asks you directly and you refuse, it could be considered contempt of court. Therefore, one defense is to keep the owner out of the courtroom by hiring a traffic attorney to represent them in court.
Equipment Malfunction: If there is reason to believe the red-light camera was faulty at the time of the alleged violation, this could serve as a valid defense.
Premature Light Change: The CA Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (CA MUTCD) stipulates the minimum duration for yellow lights depending on the speed limit of the street on which the red light and camera are positioned. You might have a viable defense if you or your attorney can prove the light changed to red too quickly.
Although Caltrans has been doing a better job of monitoring these devices, there have been several instances of municipalities manipulating the change ratio to benefit the city’s treasury.
No Warning Signs Posted: CA law requires municipalities to post signs before the intersection with a camera-enforced red light. If no signs were present, that is a valid defense.
There Was No Violation: The video and photograph must show an actual violation occurred. There is no violation if the vehicle enters the intersection or crosses the limit line before the light turns red. Experienced traffic patrol officers must view both before sending them, but the reviewers make mistakes.
Discuss the Possibility of Attending Traffic Violator's School (TVS) to Keep the Ticket Confidential
If you hire an attorney, it is possible that he can negotiate a non-point violation. Attending a traffic violator's school can serve as a useful strategy to prevent a red-light ticket from becoming a part of your public driving record. While subject to certain conditions, this option could help safeguard your insurance rates and job prospects.
Attendance at TVS is not always the answer. It would be best to discuss it with a traffic attorney before you plead guilty and pay the county’s admin fee and tuition. Despite what the court reminder might say about your eligibility to attend, it is not always correct.
If you have used TVS recently, it might not be in the system, and you can only use it every 18 months to keep a conviction confidential. It makes no financial sense to attend when you have multiple tickets. Also, commercial drivers with a red-light violation in their CMV are not eligible. There are many other reasons why TVS might not make financial sense, so it’s best to discuss your situation with an attorney.
Never use TVS to mask a correctable ticket, such as loud exhaust or no proof of insurance, get the repairs, take it to the police station where you received the ticket, and they will sign off on the correction.
If You Can't Afford the time to go to traffic school but want to avoid the insurance increase, You Need a Traffic Attorney
The high cost of camera-enforced red-light tickets makes consulting a traffic attorney a prudent decision. An experienced attorney can challenge the ticket on multiple fronts—from questioning the clarity of the photographic evidence to verifying the legitimacy of the officer's judgment who reviewed the images.
Furthermore, an experienced traffic attorney can represent the vehicle's owner in court. This strategy can prove advantageous since, unless directly asked by the judge, the owner is not obligated to reveal who was driving at the time of the alleged violation. Think about it; if your spouse or teen were driving, the cost of your auto insurance premium would still go up if they are convicted.
Dealing with a camera-enforced red-light ticket doesn't have to be an intimidating experience for drivers in Bakersfield, CA. Understanding your rights, exploring potential defenses, and enlisting the help of a skilled traffic attorney can provide a strategic approach to mitigate the impact of such a ticket on your driving record and family budget.
The average CA driver will pay $2,291 for full coverage auto insurance in 2023. A conviction or paid fine for a camera-enforced red-light ticket will significantly increase your future premiums for three years. Once your insurance provider learns of the conviction, usually at renewal, they will take away your 20% “good driver’s discount” and add the relevant risk, usually 12-15%, for a red-light ticket.
That means you will pay between $733.12 and $801.85 more per year for three years. That could mean $2,405.55 in added premiums and nearly $500 for the fine. Consult with a traffic attorney.
Call Bigger & Harman for an Initial Consultation about Your Camera-Enforced Red-Light Ticket in Bakersfield in Kern County, California
More than 20,000 Californians have asked us to represent them in court to resolve their traffic tickets.
Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.
The CA Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (CA MUTCD).
The Bankrate.com article, Average cost of car insurance in CA for 2023.
The CA DMV Portal.