Passing a red light in California would seem like a simple issue; you run one and get a ticket. However, there aren’t always police officers there to see you do it, and it might have been by accident, or you just overestimated the time you had before yellow turned to red.
But the biggest fear for California drivers is the infamous red-light camera. They’ve been the topic of debate for decades, with some cities enforcing red-light camera tickets and others doing away with them altogether. They’re not always reliable, and they can be easily dismissed if you know enough about them.
Keep reading for a basic guide on what to do if you run a red light by accident.
What Running A Red Light in California Means
Running a red light is just as illegal in California as anywhere else in the country and world.
Drivers are obligated to come to a full before, or right at, the painted line indicating where vehicles must stop. Sometimes there are no limit lines, which means the car is required to stop where the intersection begins, approximately. Even if you don’t cross the intersection completely while the light is red, rolling over the line can get you a moving violation ticket.
Are Red-Light Cameras Still Legal In California?
On top of that, red-light cameras are legal under California Vehicle Cod3 21455.5, regulating Offenses Relating to Traffic Devices. “The limit line, the intersection, or a place designated in Section 21455, where a driver is required to stop, may be equipped with an automated traffic enforcement system.”
How Do Red Light Cameras Work
But if cities choose to implement them, there are requirements the law says red-light cameras must meet. It states that the government agency installing the cameras must also maintain them and keep them in working order.
And, crucially, signage alerting drivers that red-light cameras are installed at that intersection must be clearly visible. The photos taken by a red light camera are private but can be reviewed by the ticketed person.
Red light cameras are installed at busy intersections where transit authorities have determined they can be the most useful. They sense when a car goes through the intersection at a red light, taking several pictures in seconds. The two main photos it tries to capture are one for the back license plate and one of the drivers through the windshield or side window.
The red light camera ticket is then mailed to the car owner’s home based on the address registered to the car. Also, the ticket will only be valid if the camera captures the driver’s face through the windshield or any of the front side windows. Otherwise, the ticket is not valid.
The Cost Of Running A Red Light In California
A red light moving violation would cost you anywhere from $250 to $450-500. The base fine for rolling through a red light is $100, but that increases because of additional court costs in different counties. Going right through a solid or flashing red light can end up costing you a cool $500.
On top of that, a red light ticket will add one point to your driving record. If it involves a reckless driving offense, the points added could be more. Remember that if you accumulate too many points in California, your license is suspended.
Defense Against Any Red Light Ticket
If you were given a red light ticket for a moving violation by a police officer, there are several possible ways to defend yourself in front of the judge. You could argue it was an accident and you did not see the painted limit line or that it was simply not there, making the actual limit difficult to ascertain. You can also take pictures of the intersection and prove you were within reasonable boundaries.
Another defense is to argue that the red light or stop sign is obstructed by a low-hanging branch, another sign, or because of the weather. Again, photographs can be a big help in these cases. One of our Ticket Snipers consultants can help you with the best defense in these situations.
How To Defend Against a Red-Light Camera Ticket
It’s even easier to fight a red-light camera ticket because you can use a lot of the same defenses, and there’s no police officer there to contradict you.
Ignore it (Not recommended)
Red-light camera tickets are mailed, so there’s very little the court can do to prove you did get a ticket. It’s not recommended, but you could, in theory, simply say you never got it or saw it at your address. It’s dishonest, and you risk being caught in the lie and facing even worse consequences.
Not Pay If It’s A Fake Ticket
However, there’s the possibility that the camera cannot get a clear picture of the driver. The court will be forced to send what is commonly known as a fake ticket, which is just a document that reads “Courtesy Notice: This Is Not A Ticket.” Many people pay the fine believing they’ve been caught running the red light, but if you read it carefully and realize you’ve simply been given this courtesy notice, you can avoid paying anything.
Plead “not guilty”
Enter a “not guilty” plea. This can be done online or appear in person at the arraignment and do it. Show the judge all the evidence you’ve collected and calmly explain why you think you should not have been cited or is incorrect, unlawful, or just unfair. A traffic attorney can greatly increase your odds of having a ticket dismissed this way.
Make sure you were the driver
Prove you weren’t actually driving the vehicle. If you weren’t driving, then you don’t have to pay the fines. But, the law dictates that you submit the contact information of the person who was driving the vehicle instead.
Review photos of yourself
One way to check to see if you were the driver is to ask to see the photos yourself. Check your citation for instructions on how to see them. If it’s not clear who the driver is, then the ticket is invalid.
Make sure signage is clearly visible
Check the intersection to see if the signs are correctly placed within 200 feet of every road or if there’s anything obstructing the view of the red light, stop signs, or if the limits lines aren’t painted correctly.
Yellow light time defense
Make sure the yellow light lasts as long as it should, which is three seconds. If it doesn’t last at least that time, you can have your case dismissed.
If all those tips aren’t enough, then contact us at Ticket Snipers if you have any questions about running the red light by accident, and how to defend your vehicle against red light moving citations. We are available 24/7 if you’d like to chat with one of our trained consultants about moving ticket defense.