Red Light Camera Ticket Thrown out When Records Improper
The photograph of our client going through the intersection is surprisingly and usually pretty clear. However, our clients are always unnerved by the fact that a camera and a photograph, not a live police officer and testimony, is the basis for the ticket. The following article summarizes a reported decision wherein a woman in Los Angeles successfully fought such a ticket and may assist the reader is deciding how to approach his or her ticket.
Overview: Ticket thrown out for motorist allegedly running red light because the red-light camera’s accuracy, timing and reliability was questioned when the prosecution could not lay a proper foundation for the camera’s maintenance records.
At trial on January 21, 2010, before Commissioner Carol J. Hallowitz in the Beverly Hills Superior Court, Officer Mike Butkus of the Beverly Hills Police Department testified that Redflex Traffic Systems, a non-governmental entity, is in charge of maintaining and servicing the equipment used for photo enforcement. Butkus had no personal knowledge about the maintenance, inspections or calibration of the camera.
Borzakian argued that the camera was unreliable because no one could state that the photograph of her was properly synchronized to the traffic light’s color phases. The judge seemed to consider this unimportant, as Burkus was asked about this under oath and candidly testified he had no idea, and Borzakian was convicted of violating Vehicle Code § 21453(a).
Borzakian then appealed to the Second Appellate District Court of Appeal, arguing under a U.S. Supreme Court case familiar to most defense attorneys – Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts (2009) 129 S.Ct. 2527 - that the prosecution evidence concerning the reliability and accuracy of the camera lacked foundation and was hearsay. Borzakian argued that the photographic evidence, calibration records and “monthly preventative maintenance (PM) inspection” records against her were therefore, improperly admitted because Butkus had no qualifications or knowledge to establish that the photographs, calibration records or maintenance records were reliable, and consequently, could be trusted.
The Second Appellate District Court agreed with Borzakian. The appeals court also allowed their opinion to be published, which is a first. Previously, the Orange County Superior Court’s appellate panel upheld a similar argument (People v. Khaled, 30-2009-304893) in 2010, but did not allow its opinion to be published.
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