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undefinedRunning a red light is a serious traffic offense in California that can result in fines, points on a driver's driving record, and the potential for collisions and injuries. Under California law, it is illegal to enter an intersection or crosswalk after the traffic signal has turned red. Drivers who fail to stop at a red light may be cited for a traffic violation and may be subject to the following consequences:

  • Fines: Drivers who are cited for running a red light may be subject to fines of up to $500, depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the driver's prior driving record.
  • Points on driving record: Running a red light carries one point on a driver's driving record. Accumulating too many points can lead to the suspension or revocation of a driver's license.
  • Increased insurance premiums: Insurance companies may increase a driver's premiums or even cancel their policy after a red light violation.
  • Attendance at traffic school: Some drivers may be required to attend traffic school as a condition of probation.

Defenses to Running a Red Light Charges

Although a driver should not concern themselves with the defenses for running a red light but always consult a CA traffic attorney when accused of running a red light, here are some things to keep in mind.

There are several defenses that a driver may raise in response to a red light violation. One defense is that the driver did not run the red light but was turning right on a red and the law enforcement officer (LEO) accused them of not stopping before entering the intersection. 

The driver might have stopped before the crosswalk, as is directed in CA Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 21453 (b) Offenses Relating to Traffic Devices, stipulates “Except when a sign is in place prohibiting a turn, a driver, after stopping… may turn right, or turn left from a one-way street onto a one-way street. A driver making that turn shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk…”

Therefore, the LEO might not have been in an advantageous position to see the driver stop before the crosswalk and roll forward to see if any traffic was approaching before making their turn. 

Although a driver could wait their turn in court, plead not guilty, and return another day to present their case to a traffic court judge, they would lose time from work or school. Likewise, when their name is called, regardless of how well-prepared they are, they could get “stage fright” or inadvertently admit guilt.

It is best to hire a traffic attorney to represent you in traffic court so that you can go to work or school as if nothing happened, and if the LEO does not show up for trial, the attorney can ask the judge for a dismissal. Barring the LEO not showing up, the attorney can present the evidence using their knowledge and experience developed over many court appearances. 

Another defense is that the driver's actions were necessary to avoid a greater danger. For example, if a driver ran a red light to avoid hitting a pedestrian or another vehicle as their “excuse,” they may be able to argue that their actions were justified.

Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute (LII) WEX Definition Team defines defense as:

“A defense is an act of protecting one’s own interests. In common law, a defendant may use defenses to prevent or limit liability. A defense can be founded on both factual and legal grounds.”

Finally, a driver may be able to challenge the accuracy of the evidence against them. For example, if the driver was cited for running a red light based on the testimony of the LEO, the attorney may be able to challenge any evidence that contradicts their point of view and the facts. The LEO’s view may have not been advantageous to see the driver stop before the crosswalk, and then roll forward to check for traffic. 

Another frequent occurrence in CA is the timing of the change from yellow to red is not in accordance with the CA Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (CA MUTCD). Caltrans developed a statewide uniform time that a light should remain yellow depending on the speed limit on that highway.

Some municipalities in the past were caught fudging the time to increase their treasury. The city of Fremont, CA or the Redflex Traffic Systems shaved time off the yellow light time, which they reportedly used to generate $200,000 per month in additional revenue until exposed their trickery.

How to Prevent Red Light Violations

There are several steps that drivers can take to prevent red light violations and stay safe on the road. These include:

  • Obeying all traffic laws and signals
  • Maintaining a safe following distance
  • Avoiding distractions such as texting or eating while driving
  • Being mindful of weather and road conditions
  • Wearing a seatbelt and ensuring that all passengers do the same
  • Never speeding up to get through a yellow light except when it would be more dangerous to stop and get rearended. 


Running a red light is a serious traffic offense in California that can result in fines, points on a driver's driving record, and the potential for collisions and injuries. It is important for drivers to understand the consequences of running a red light and to take steps to prevent it from happening. If a driver is cited for a red light violation, they may be able to defend against the charge by raising one of the defenses discussed above with the help of a knowledgeable and experienced traffic attorney.

Consult Bigger & Harman, the Red Light Ticket Attorneys 

Call Bigger & Harman at (661) 349-9300, or use the handy online contact form to set up a free, no-obligation consultation.

We are the Central Valley and Eastern California traffic attorneys who frequently assist drivers defend their charge of running a red light in Kern  County Traffic Court. We are familiar with the traffic court judges, court personnel, and many of the LEO in Bakersfield and Delano in Kern County.  

Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.



The 2021 CA Driver Handbook English y Español

Cornell Law School’s LII WEX Definition of defense.

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