Imagine: It’s a rather common day and you’re running around town, knocking errands off your to-do list when all of a sudden, you see an array of bright, flashing lights as you stroll through one of the same intersections you drive through every day.
You think to yourself, “I don’t think we were expecting a lightening storm!” and then you realize that you probably set off the flashes at a red light camera. Paranoid, you go online to do some research about how long it takes for them to send you a ticket, and how much it’s going to cost you.
You wait and wait and about a week later, you get a fancy $500 notice in the mail with several pictures of you with the surprised “flash” face as you made your way into the intersection, only milliseconds after it had turned red. How can this be? You were sure you didn’t run that light!
Sound familiar? If you drive in one of the 70+ cities in California that operate red light camera systems, it’s very likely that you have experienced a similar situation, or know someone who has. Red light cameras bring millions of dollars in every year to the cities and camera companies. There are many different conspiracy theories on them, but we’ve got the inside scoop on exactly how they’re run, and how you can avoid the headache of a ticket.
A Brief History
The first red light camera systems began as early as the 1960’s and are said to have been introduced into the United States by the 1980’s. Currently, red light camera systems are run in 25 states across the US. Fines generated by citations differ from state to state, but are as high as $500 in California. Supporters of the systems uphold that the cameras are designed to reduce the number of accidents at selected intersections, but some studies contradict that claim. Opponents argue that the systems are run as a revenue generator and have little to no affect on accident reduction. It’s an on-going debate as to whether red light cameras violate constitutional laws protecting the public.
How They Work
If you haven’t already figured out, red light cameras are designed to capture photos of red light runners. More specifically, they’re installed at specified intersections to capture red light runners turning right without stopping completely (or making illegal right hand turns), turning left on red, or going straight through the intersection on a red. The cameras are placed on the corners of the intersection and are activated by induction loop sensors embedded under the road which create a magnetic field around the entrance to the intersection. When a vehicle enters the magnetic field at a speed in which it detects that you will run the light, it causes the camera systems to activate and begin recording the incident. Pictures are taken of the vehicle entering and leaving the intersection, and of the driver’s face and the vehicle’s license plate.
The photos are gathered by the police department and are then reviewed by an officer. If the officer determines that the driver did apparently commit a violation, they will send the ticket to the owner on the vehicle’s registration and file it with the courthouse to follow up. In California, the police department must issue the ticket within 15 days of the date of violation. The California court system allows defendants to contest the alleged violation in a court trial or trial by written declaration (trial by mail).
Many argue that the officer who issues the ticket and testifies in court to a disputed case is not the proper person to present the photographic evidence, since he or she is not an expert in the camera systems.
The company that owns and operates the cameras contracts with the city to operate a ticket-based red light camera program. In California, cities are bound by a vast multitude of rules and regulations when operating a red light camera program.
For example, when installing a new red light camera at an intersection, the program must follow a 30 day warning period at that intersection before issuing actual citations to violators. The city must also make proper public announcements when installing cameras at new approaches and intersections. The law requires for there to be proper signs placed at each intersection’s approach, even if the intersection has a camera at only one approach, or for the city to have proper signs at each city entrance, indicating the use of red light camera systems within the city.
If the city is not in full compliance with each regulation, their red light camera program might be deemed illegal by the judge, as has been in the case of many cities, such as Napa in 2011 when the judge deemed that the “cost neutrality” clause in the cities’ contract with the camera company was unconstitutional.
How to Avoid Them
Undoubtedly, the best way to avoid a red light camera ticket is to come to a complete stop before the limit line before the light turns red.
It’s very common for drivers who are making a right on red (which is legal in California, unless otherwise noted) to slow down, look, and turn if no one else is coming.
California vehicle code 21453(a) stats that a driver “shall stop at a marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then before entering the intersection.” Red light cameras are designed to capture drivers who turn right without completely stopping before the limit line.
A huge percentage of red light tickets that are issued are for this violation, and cost as much as if the driver blew straight through the light.
Opponents use this information to support their claim that red light cameras are simply revenue generators, arguing that making a right on red without stopping completely is not as dangerous as blowing straight through the light. Legislators in the past have tried to pass laws that separate the two incidences into two separate violations, with right on reds being less expensive than runners driving straight through the light. As it stands, the two incidences result in the same fine, and the same violation.
If You Get a Ticket
Although California’s red light camera ticket fines are debatably expensive, the California court system does make it fairly easy to contest a ticket through a trial by written declaration. This option allows drivers to contest their case through the mail, and gives drivers who are found guilty a second option to fight it in court through a trial de novo.
Many people who have received red light camera tickets have decided to contest their ticket, not because they didn’t think they ran the light, but because they simply couldn’t afford the high fines and insurance hikes from the potential point placed on their record.
Many feel that the cameras are unconstitutional and violate their rights as citizens with being recorded on camera. Until the vast majority of lawmakers and government authorities can agree that this is the case, red light camera systems will continue to be a multi-million dollar revenue source for cities.
Sara Schoonover is Vice President of Ticket Kick a California company that helps drivers get red light camera tickets and other traffic tickets dismissed by helping drivers through the trial by written declaration process. The company, which formally launched in 2010 after providing similar services since 2006, is the leading company in this space and growing rapidly.
September 21, 2011
Got a traffic ticket? Thinking about just paying it and taking traffic school? Think again. In July, California Assembly Bill 2499 went into affect, changing the scene in the courtroom of who may be able to attend traffic school to keep their driving record clean. Lets start with the basics, and go into how this new law can affect you as a driver.
What is traffic school?
Traffic school is a government regulated program designed to teach people how to become safer drivers. When you get a traffic ticket, the court might make a deal with you: take a traffic school course and they’ll keep a point off of your record. The point system is a way for the DMV and insurance companies to determine how risky you are on the road. Three points in 3 years on your record could mean suspension of your driver’s license, and insurance hikes of 20% or more, not to mention unhappy letters from the DMV.
What is the new law all about?
Before AB 2499 went into effect, the judges were allowed to grant traffic school to just about anyone at their discretion. The new law prohibits judges to approve traffic school unless the driver meets specific eligibility requirements outlined in the law as follows: Only non commercial drivers who have not previously attended traffic school in the last 18 months may be allowed to attend. Once you take traffic school, you will not be granted it again if you get another ticket within 18 months. Period.
This rule goes for drivers who get more than one ticket in more than one county or courthouse. The California court system now has a more solid way of communicating with each-other on who has or hasn’t attended. You simply cannot fall through the cracks of the court anymore. Fighting it may seem more appealing now.
The term “clean driving record” no longer applies with traffic school
It used to be that when you attended traffic school, you obtained a ticket dismissal on your driving record as if it never existed. Now, a violation will still appear on your record as “confidential,” but not as a point. The only way to actually keep your record clean if you get a ticket is to try to fight it and have it completely dismissed within the court’s records.
A comparison analysis of what a ticket could cost you
Lets look at a few options you have when you get a traffic ticket and what could be the related costs in terms of traffic school:
Plead guilty, pay the fine, accept the point.
California imparts some of the highest fines associated with traffic tickets. The average speeding ticket fines in California can be anywhere from $250-$400. The all-too popular redlight cameratickets cost about $500. Then there’s the insurance rates. One insurance company said that they automatically raise rates 20% if they see two tickets within three years or for a suspension due to any unresolved tickets. That’s hundreds of dollars more per year in insurance hikes. Yikes!
Plead guilty, pay the fine, attend traffic school.
If you choose to request traffic school and are approved, you’d be looking at paying your ticket fine, paying the court’s traffic school fee (generally another $60), and then paying the actual traffic school. You’d be saving money in any future insurance hikes but you’d be looking at initially forking out close to $1,000 depending on your violation, and using up your traffic school option for the next year and a half.
Plead not guilty, fight the ticket
The California court system makes it fairly easy to contest a traffic ticket through a trial by written declaration (trial by mail). If you fight your ticket and win, not only do you save on the ticket fines, but you eliminate the need to attend traffic school therefore saving those related costs. If you fight your ticket and lose, you’re back to square one and can then resort to traffic school.
Some estimates say that over 16 million traffic tickets are given out in California every year. Many people still choose the route of paying their ticket and attending traffic school. For many, it may seem like the easiest way, but now with stricter restrictions on traffic school eligibility, and with the high ticket fines that most people simply cannot afford in today’s economy, many are re-thinking pleading guilty and actually trying to beat traffic tickets.
Sara Schoonover is Vice President of of Ticket Kick, a California company that helps drivers get red light cameratickets and other traffic tickets dismissed by helping drivers through the trial by written declaration process. The company, which formally launched in 2010 after providing similar services since 2006, is the leading company in this space and growing rapidly.
How to Get a Ticket Dismissed (Almost) Every Time
Have you ever known someone who received a traffic ticket? Chances are, you’ve heard your friend complain about the speeding ticket he got last week. He was only doing 80 with the flow of traffic, how could the cop write him a ticket! Or, how about your aunt who received one of those red light camera tickets in the mail claiming she didn’t stop completely before making a right on a red. She was sure she stopped that day, but now she faces a $500 ticket fine that she can’t afford since her husband was recently laid off, and she really doesn’t want to deal with fighting it in court.
These circumstances make us really start to appreciate living in California (or the few other states with a similar court system). Our courts make it fairly easy for drivers to fight their traffic ticket…and win! Most people think that their only option to fight their ticket is to go to court, wait in line, and plead their case in front of an intimidating judge only to be found guilty and left with few options but to just pay it off and drive really carefully for the next three years. But there is another option that most people seem to overlook-it’s called the trial by written declaration and it allows drivers to contest their ticket through the mail without ever having to appear in court. In fact, you will find information for the trial by written declaration right on the back of your ticket.
What kind of tickets are eligible for a trial by written declaration?
Just about every traffic infraction with a California vehicle code that is not past-due is eligible for a trial by written declaration, i.e. speeding tickets, stop sign tickets, red light tickets, red light camera tickets, cell phone tickets, tail-gaiting, etc. The trial by written declaration forms can be downloaded from most court websites. Some courthouses have their own policies for filing a trial by written declaration, so be sure to check your court’s website or contact them for specific instructions.
For those who doubt, there are several benefits to pursuing a trial by written declaration.
● It’s convenient. No long trips to the courthouse. No waiting in lines.
● It allows for a comprehensive written argument based on well prepared legal research.
● It’s a great place to start, assuring that if you are found guilty, you would then have the option for a trial de novo (retrial) or the opportunity to request traffic school. It’s a no-brainer to give it a shot.
1. It’s effective.The officers are required to write in their statement but they don’t get paid to do so, so generally they don’t have a huge incentive to write a lengthy statement against you.
So what do you write in your trial by written declaration, anyhow?
Here’s an insider look at how one of the top legal companies in California formulates defenses for their drivers. Greg Muender, president and founder of TicketKick shares his tips:
● Become fully aware of what you’re dealing with. Research what the law says about your violation, break it down, and find the loopholes that apply to your case. For example, red light camera law establishes lengthy requirements that cities must abide by in operating the camera systems. Use public resources to determine if all requirements have been met.
● Research similar published cases (case precedent) and cite them when applicable.
● Stick to the facts about your case. Do not formulate any excuses about why you did whatever you did. Do not admit guilt.
● Remember, the trial by written declaration is a legal document which leaves no room for spelling or grammatical errors. If your statement includes legal jargon, including cited case precedent, be sure to use it properly and authoritatively.
● Identify the ways that you are not guilty, and use that as a foundation to convince the judge why he should dismiss the case.
With ticket fines higher than ever, and the average speeding ticket costing between $250-$400 and everyone’s favorite red light camera tickets about $500 a pop, the trial by written declaration has proven to millions of drivers to be an effective way to beat traffic tickets, saving drivers hundreds of dollars in ticket fines, adding no points to their record or raising insurance rates, and saving the time and hassle it takes in going to the courthouse or taking traffic school.
As soon as you receive your license, you take on great responsibilities as a driver, and must be able to properly abide by all laws and rules of the road. However, there are a lot of drivers out there today that can pass their driving exams and get their license, but still don’t know the rules of the road that they are traveling, which can be different from one state to another.
So, are you sure what rules pertain to you as a driver in your state, or are you driving without the knowledge that is key to your safety and legal driving? There are several resources from your state that can offer the information that will help you follow the rules precisely, but if you don’t know what they are, how are you supposed to find them.
Every state offers its drivers the handbooks and manuals needed to understand driving in that state and the rules involved. With all states, the information contained in these manuals and the method by which you can retrieve these manuals can be much different, which is why it is always a good idea to contact the local DMV to see where and how you can get your manuals and handbooks for your state.
In many cases these days, these handbooks and manuals are offered online, but can also be obtained by mail or in-person, with every state DMV office stocked full with these manuals in order to have the necessary information to provide for drivers, which comes in handy for studying for your written exams and even understanding driving better once you do receive your license. In most states, a separate CDL driver’s handbook and motorcycle operator’s handbook is offered as well.
Every state has a vehicle code, which is like the bible when it comes to driver’s safety and traffic laws. Every traffic law that pertains to vehicle operation, use, and ownership is contained within these publications, which are also offered by the DMV in your state. These publications can also be found online for most states today, which helps you obtain the information you need most much easier.
Getting the vehicle code is never going to be a requirement, but can yield such great information to help you better navigate the roadways in your state with the knowledge needed of the laws and rules you must follow as you sit behind the wheel.
If you use these resources, you are sure to be aware of what you must do as a driver, how you must take driving in the state and what can happen if you don’t follow the rules detailed. The rules of every state’s drivers are much different, which is something that you should remember as you go to new states driving in their highways and streets. Even if you are new or a visitor to the state and aren’t aware that you are breaking the rules, law enforcement finds it to be your responsibility and penalizes you and your driving record accordingly.
Another great anticipated to be hit from Ashton Kutcher is the new reality series “California DMV: Field Offices”. This has been compared to be a fusion of styles from “The Office” and another silly comedy, “Parks and Recreation”. The show has been picked up for four episodes by TruTV, and is expected to provide a better image of what really goes on within the DMV of one of the most renown states – California.
Of course, it isn’t a first thought that watching the government rack up on hard working civilians would be a great concept for prime time television, but it is the thought of the location that really starts the gears turning with ideas of just what could arise from the reality show.
So, what could you possibly expect – as the name Ashton Kutcher alone gets you grinning at the thought of previous “Punks”, which was and remains quite a hit for all audiences who enjoy a great laugh. From “punking” celebrities, to a new entry into “Two and a Half Men”, as well as the famed start in the stoner new-classic “That 70’s Show”, to many different movies under his belt, this show is already destined for success.
There are some “peaks” or rumors into what could possibly be held within the four episodes which have already been ordered for public viewing, which include:
· Street Preachers who can’t keep their aggression under wraps – offering great entertainment for those waiting patiently in line at the California DMV office.
· A driver’s test – or a few – that goes way wrong when the DMV office itself becomes the parking spot for some student drivers.
· Handicapped parking placard theft from an inside job by ruthless DMV employees.
· “Title Washing” as an organized crime.
· Undocumented immigrant license sales – completely illegal.
So, what you can look forward to is another possible smash hit that is sure to bring in some great laughs while also taking a look at one of the busiest offices within the state of California from county to county. There is no doubt that there will be some unexpected fun and some great stories, as well as those things that you just couldn’t have thought up if you tried – offering great entertainment for all.
“California DMV: Field Offices” has more than just a great creator, but also offers a surprisingly unique and interesting concept that is going to open doors to the Department of Motor Vehicles’ ultimate TV personality.
Placard fraud may seem like the perfect solution for getting the closest parking space without having to be disabled, but the state of California DMV is having none of it. While there may be those that have gotten away with the crime in the past, there are no more passes for those who fraudulently use or obtain disabled parking placards in California. These placards are reserved for those with real disabilities, and those found with placards and no disability will be punished appropriately.
What are Parking Placards?
California parking placards are issued to those who present proof of a qualifying physical or mental disability that may impair mobility a bit. These placards are attached to the appropriate spot on the
vehicle, providing the driver and their passengers, or the disabled passenger and their driver, with the accommodations deemed most appropriate for accessing venues and buildings within the state.
If you are disabled, getting a placard is easy and can be done within the California DMV – however, if you have no disabilities, it is best to leave this placard alone.
Why Parking Placard Fraud?
One of the greatest benefits of the parking placard is the ability to park for free within the metered spaces throughout the state, which is one reason why there are many who have chosen to use these
placards fraudulently – abusing the privileges that are offered to others in order to get free and more convenient parking. The result is disabled drivers who aren’t able to access the parking they need, and
those who don’t have the privileges, gaining the ability to park in spaces not designated for them.
So, in an attempt to catch these drivers and give them the punishment deserved, there are reported stings within the highest volume parking areas, which are seeking out this fraudulent placard use, as more and more people seem to try to get away with using parking privileges not offered to them.
Why Persecute Parking Placard Fraud?
The state of California is losing a great deal of money in losses of parking meter revenues and is experiencing a great deal of traffic congestion that is increased by these parking practices. It was even
calculated that approximately 30% of the parking placards used today in the state of California, are actually illegal placards that were not granted to the individual or were even obtained fraudulently in
order to get cheaper and quicker parking.
Those who require these privileges to adequately enjoy the same privileges and rights as non-disabled drivers suffer due to parking placard fraud, which is another reason that California is finally cracking down and actively seeking this type of fraud. Not only does revenue lessen, while these disabled drivers are no longer given accommodations that they rightfully deserve, which could even cause a greater risk of injuries to these drivers who have been legally granted the right to park in these spaces.
So, if you think that you are going to get away with parking placard fraud in the state of California – think again.
If you would like more information on obtaining a California disabled parking placards or handicapped tag please visit the California DMV.