Red Light Camera Tickets in Los Angeles

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usually extinguish any patriotic flames. 99% of the people who I encounter leaving traffic court realize that it’s an outdated, ineffecient system and the bottom line is that it’s all about the money.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.

Written By

Criminal Defense Attorney with over 12 years of experience in Southern California. Mr. Gallagher handles criminal matters, DUI cases, and traffic issues. Mr. Gallagher also provides assistance to anyone looking to fix a suspended license, clear a warrant, or get tickets out of collections. Call Mark at 800-797-8406, email attorneygallagher@gmail.com or visit www.socaldefenselawyers.com

5 Comments

  • I arranged a court date for next year to try and contest my ticket and bring down the fine. I haven’t paid a dime yet. Can I call the court and cancel my court date and not pay? Will I get a point on my driving record if I don’t pay?

    Please.

  • “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.”

    What if you cancel your court appearance? It was voluntary to go to court so wouldn’t it be the same to cancel it?????

    HELP!

    • You can not cancel the court date. Once you set a court date you are stuck and you must follow through by going to court or the consequences will get worse. So once the date is set, you no longer have the option of ignoring the ticket and getting away with it. You are not completely stuck though because you can still go to court and FIGHT the ticket. You can ask the Judge to reduce the fine or allow traffic school, or you can plead not guilty and fight the ticket at trial

  • I got a red light camera citation in November in East Los Angeles, my $449 bail + $64 traffic school fees are due today or tomorrow. I know my court date is slated for tomorrow. There’s been so much talk about which ones can be ignore and which cannot. I watched a KNBC news report from October 2015, but it still didn’t advise Yes Or No. Should I just go ahead and pay it and avoid risking the bail doubling? This was from making a left turn from 3rd St to Eastern Ave as the yellow left turn arrow just changed to red. 2 photos were taken when I went through the intersection. Any information will be helpful at this point. Thank you!

    • It’s up to you if you wish to pay the ticket or ignore it. If you chose to ignore the ticket, you will get away with it. They will send you mean letters but that’s it. No license hold, no warrant. There are two exceptions to this option. One, if the ticket is from a county other than Los Angeles, you should speak with a lawyer about how that county handles these cases before choosing to ignore the ticket. Two, if you have already requested an extension or set a court date, you no longer have the option of ignoring the ticket without consequences. Once you get an extension or set a date, you must follow through and deal with the ticket

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