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Red Light Enforcement Ticket — You May Want to Appeal

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If you have received a citation at the “hands” of a red light camera, you will be interested in this story.

In a decision entered on May 21 of this year, a Superior Court appellate panel ordered that a photo enforcement citation issued to Tarek Khaled be dismissed.

In the last week, that ruling became final after the Court of Appeal denied transfer.

Tarek Khaled received a citation in August 2008 from the Santa Ana police. He was cited for “running” a red light. Tarek Khaled disputed the ticket and requested his day in court. At the trial, the prosecution sought to admit the photographs of Tarek “running” the red light to prove their case. The defense objected on the ground that the photographs, which had certain information, entered on them, such as the time and date they were taken, were inadmissible, hearsay. The Court Commissioner, Daniel Ornelas hearing the case, disagreed and admitted the photos and a supporting declaration from a police officer.

Upon review, the appellate panel agreed with the defense and said the objection should have been sustained and the pictures should not have been admitted.

It is a well founded principal of law that admission of a photograph or videotape requires testimony from the photographer or the person who took the video, or from a person who was present and witnessed the event that the photograph or video purports to depict, or from someone who has personal knowledge as to when the camera was started or stopped.

In the case of Tarek Khaled, the prosecution sought to have a police officer that was familiar with that specific intersection admit the testimony. The officer was unable to establish the time in question, the method of retrieval of the photographs, or that any of the photographs or the videotape were a reasonable representation of what it is alleged to portray.

The panel further rejected the argument that the photos could be admitted under the business records or official records exceptions to the hearsay rule because foundational requirements were not met. “The person or persons who maintain the system did not testify.” The panel explained. The panel further went on to rule: “Without these documents, there is a total lack of evidence to support the vehicle code violation in question.”

It is unknown how many people may have been convicted of traffic violations because of red light enforcement machines, but it is clear from this decision that if you are one of those individuals you may have a basis to contest or appeal the ticket. If the ticket is on your driving record, has increased your insurance rates or just cost you a lot of money it may be worth your while to talk to an attorney about an appeal or about your options to contest this citation.

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