Did you get a red light camera ticket in the mail in Los Angeles? On Monday July 25th, 2011, Los Angeles city officials admitted that it’s safe to ignore them. Monday’s three hour city council meeting was full of contention but everyone seemed to agree that nothing happens if you simply ignore the fact that you received one of these tickets. Richard M. Tefank from the Board of Police Commissioners described it as a voluntary payment program without sanctions for those who fail to submit fines. Other members discussed how there is no penalty in terms of your driving record or your license if you ignore the ticket. At the end of the meeting it was agreed that the system would be scrapped and red light camera tickets would no longer be a part of driving in Los Angeles, and we expect the cameras to be coming down soon.
This is a perfect example of the complete double talk that is so common in our Los Angeles traffic courts. The red light camera system has been in effect for years and issuing about 50,000 tickets a year. If you are a responsible citizen and you pay the ticket, you suffer fines of around $500 and you will either have a point on your driving record or be required to attend traffic school at your own additional expense. If you exercise your consitutional rights and fight the ticket it will take several days of your time and when you finally do get your day in court, you end up in front of an overworked judge who in many cases is outraged by the thought that you would contest a ticket like this. If you simply throw the ticket in the trash and blow it off, there are zero consequences. Great way to build confidence in our judicial system.
For many Californians, traffic court is their first taste of our judicial system. I meet people everyday while standing in line or waiting for cases to be called who are generally excited about seeing the American legal system in action. It’s a great opportunity to showcase the best legal system in the world that is built on the foundations of the presumption of innocence and due process. Unfortunately, a long day in traffic court will usually extinguish any patriotic flames. 99% of the people who I encounter leaving traffic court realize that it’s an outdated, ineffecient system and the bottom line is that it’s all about the money.
So what do you do with your red light camera ticket? If it was issued in the city of Los Angeles and you have never appeared in court, it is now safe to throw it away and ignore it. If you have already set a court date online or by mail, or by going to the courthouse, this rule no longer applies. You read that correctly. By responding to the ticket like a responsible person, you have actually made the situation worse. Once you make an appointment or appearance, the ticket can now be enforced like a regular ticket which means that failure to appear as promised can result in a suspension of your driving privilege, increased fines, a misdmeanor charge of failure to appear, civil assessments, and even the issuance of a warrant for your arrest.
If your red light camera ticket is issued from somewhere outside of Los Angeles, you need to talk to a local attorney because every court is treating them differently and the cities who issue and prosecute them vary greatly in how they are handled. If you have already appeared or made a reservation in Los Angeles you must also appear and deal with the ticket.
And remember, this ONLY applies to red light CAMERA tickets that you receive in the mail. If you are issued a ticket for a red light or any other violation by a live officer and you sign the ticket, you MUST appear in court or otherwise resolve the ticket by the date on the bottom of the ticket or you face the risk of a suspended license, increased fines, warrants, etc. If you have a question about a red light camera ticket or any other kind of ticket, traffic, or criminal charge in any courthouse in Southern California, you can always talk to me.