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LA County Documents & Info (Cont'd)


If a Google search has just landed you on this LA County Docs page
, please start by going through the checklist in the What's Hot box on the Home page.  You won't get lost or delayed:  The checklist will quickly bring you back here, if appropriate.


Yes, this is the webpage that explains why in LA County, paying a red light camera ticket is voluntary/optional. 
But first, this important political announcement...


  In 2018, Vote No on Sheila Kuehl

Do you live in Los Angeles County?  Was Zev Yaroslavsky your County Supervisor?  (Until Nov. 2014, he represented the Third District, which includes the central and western San Fernando Valley, Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice, Beverly Hills, the City of West Hollywood, and part of Hollywood.)

Zev "termed out," and in the Nov. 2014 election, Sheila Kuehl won the race to succeed him, by a narrow margin.

Sheila Kuehl authored 3 speed
                camera bills
Sheila "Kuehl Cams" Kuehl, in 2007

During her career in the California Legislature, Kuehl made three attempts to pass bills to allow the use of automated speed enforcement (photo radar) in California.

As an LA County Supervisor, she has a seat on the MTA/Metro board and she will be a vote to continue and expand Metro's huge (101 cameras, so far) red light camera system.
She was also a vote to put an additional LA County-wide sales tax, to go to Metro, on the Nov. 2016 ballot.  (See
Measure M on the Action/Legis page, for more about that tax.)

Kuehl will be up for re-election in Nov. 2018 and Nov. 2022.




LA County Docs Set # 2 - Countywide Info
In LA County, Paying a Red Light Camera Ticket is Voluntary!

The info here in Set # 2 is applicable to red light camera tickets from all cities in LA County, including those from the MTA.  But only in LA County, and only if you haven't contacted the court about your ticket.

The LA County Superior Court Does Not Report Ignored Red Light Camera Tickets to the DMV!

(This information applies to any red light camera ticket issued by any city in LA County, no matter whether the ticket was signed by that city's police or by the LA County Sheriff.  This information also applies to all tickets from the red light cameras near the Los Angeles County MTA busway and light rail lines.)

The public got its first hint - from a reliable source - about the ability to ignore camera tickets when in Sept. 2010 the LA Times published an
article with the sub-headline:

"Officials say almost half of photo tickets are currently not paid, in part because the DMV has not been instructed [by the court] to place holds on licenses and registrations for those with outstanding [photo] citations." 

 Later, during the June 7, 2011 meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission
there was this testimony by an LAPD deputy chief:

"There's no consequence for not paying the ticket on a photo red light [in LA County].
And currently if a percentage rate is paying and the general public understands that there is no consequence, there is a risk that many more will not pay.
We have petitioned/appealed the [Los Angeles County] Superior Court to put teeth into this so that there will be a consequence. But that has met with the answer that they will not support it.

"So there's no consequence [in LA County].
There's no warrant.
This is not in queue when you renew your drivers license.
This is not in queue when you register your car."

Transcript

In a June 20, 2011 article headlined "No Green for Running Red Lights," the Los Angeles Daily News quoted the executive officer of the Police Commission:

"If you receive a photo red light ticket... what we have in Los Angeles County is the courts have made the decision they will not refer them to the DMV to put a hold on a license (if the ticket is not paid)."


Later, LA Times articles repeated the same information:

Article, Jul. 26, 2011
Article, Jul. 27, 2011


In LA County, paying a red light camera ticket is voluntary (optional) - unless you've already contacted the court.

Warning:  Contacting the court (or its website lacourt.org, formerly lasuperiorcourt.org) to check the status of your ticket or to sign up for an extension lets them know that you received the ticket.  If you then decide to do nothing further about the ticket and so do not take care of it by the due date (or the extended due date), it is possible that the court will report you to the DMV. 
 
It is OK to go to cite-web.com, photonotice.com, etc., to view the photos/video of the violation - those photo viewing sites are run by the camera companies, not the court.

A Question:  The Effect of Re-Issuance

So, the owner of the car (your friend, your relative, your employer, a rental agency) received a Snitch Ticket (fake ticket) or a real ticket in his, her or the company's name, and then he, she or the company:

(a) Filled out the affidavit and identified you, or
(b)  contacted the police and convinced them that they had named the wrong person, or
(c) pled "not guilty" (which often will prompt the police to do some more research).

  And that caused a real ticket to be issued in your name.

Can you ignore that real ticket?

If the first thing the police sent out was a fake ticket (Snitch Ticket), you're probably OK to ignore your real ticket because the filing of your real ticket was the first time the court heard of the matter.  (When the police mail out a fake ticket, they don't file a copy with the court.)

If the first thing the police sent out was a real ticket (which then got re-issued to you), I don't know for sure if it is safe to ignore that ticket.  So, I would like to hear from anyone who has ignored a real ticket which was issued after the owner responded to a Snitch Ticket or a real ticket.

(This applies only to red light camera tickets, and only those in LA County, of course.)

Press Releases from the Court, and More Articles

In early August 2011, Mary Hearn, Director of Public Information for the LA County Superior Court, provided the following statement in response to questions from a reporter:

"Vehicle Code section 40509(c)(1) allows, but does not require, the Court to send notice to the DMV of any person who fails to appear in response to a notice subsequent to a traffic violation captured by an automated traffic enforcement system (i.e., red light camera system). The DMV is subsequently authorized to place a hold on the accused offenderís license, forcing the person to resolve the ticket prior to renewing his or her license.

"The Court supports a collections effort [see "Will Your Credit Rating be Dinged?," below] whose results and efficiency are a model for the California courts. However, that collections policy has, for many years, not included the proposed notification to DMV. In creating and administering this collections effort, the Courtís policies are informed both by the need to follow through on the fines issued, and by the need to do so in a fair and just manner.

"In the case of red-light camera enforcement, experience suggests that issuing a driverís license hold on the basis of a red-light enforcement ticket could result in an unfair result where the owner of the vehicle is denied the ability to renew his or her license, even though that person was not the driver of the vehicle at the time the camera captured a person going through a red light.

"A failure to appear on a red-light traffic citation per notification from the Court results in penalties in addition to the original fine and the matter will be referred to a collection agency [see "Will Your Credit Rating be Dinged?," below] if not resolved in the time allotted to do so.

"Questions related to credit scores [see "Will Your Credit Rating be Dinged?," below] and insurance premiums should be directed to those businesses."


In early September 2011, Ms. Hearn sent the following to a reporter who was
writing (archived copy) about the collection process:


"We are not aware of any judicial officer ordering or authorizing GC Services to garnish wages or other income, attaching bank accounts, or filing liens.


"Just as there is concern about requesting that the Dept. of Motor Vehicles place a hold against the license of a person who is not responsible for the red light camera violation, the same concern applies to authorizing severe collections methods [see "Will Your Credit Rating be Dinged?," below] against a person who may not be responsible for the infraction.


"As is true in evaluating any action presented in our courts, in situations where sufficient ambiguity exists, our judicial officers must not impose a judgment that is not supported by the facts or the law.

"Our judicial officers must balance their responsibility for enforcing the law with their responsibility to protect the public from abuse of those laws."


In September 2011 memos about the closing of that city's cameras, Gardena Police Department personnel described the efforts being made to get the Court to change its policy.


A Sep. 8, 2011 LA Weekly article (archived copy) described the way the LA Superior Court handles red light camera tickets. 
As of Dec. 2014 the article had 252 comments, and readers were continuing to add new comments, including this one:


"PERMANENT RESIDENTS, DON'T IGNORE IT!  I got a camera ticket in La Habra, barely outside of Covina, this April on my brothers car. So he ends up receiving the ticket for $495 in his name but my photo. Me & my brother have been permanent residents for 20 years. Unfortunately I can't ignore the ticket cus that's putting him in jeopardy. Plus I read the part about the ticket remaining in court records, so that means taking a risk to be denied citizenship when finally applying in the near future. If you're a permanent legal resident & you plan to apply for citizenship, it's a no brainer, don't risk it. Pay the half grand in community service if you have to."

April 2013 online comment found on the Sep. 8, 2011 LA Weekly article. 
(In early 2015 the Weekly changed to a new commenting system, and all old comments were lost.) 


Highwayrobbery.net does not know if the commenter (in box above) is telling the truth.  For example:  La Habra has no red light cameras, and is not all that close to Covina, which does.  But just to be safe we suggest that if you plan to apply for citizenship and you have received a real red light camera ticket from a city in LA County, or from the MTA, check with your immigration advisor before ignoring that ticket.
You still will be safe ignoring a Snitch Ticket.


In a Dec. 15, 2011 article about the planned closing (in June 2012) of Pasadena's cameras, the Pasadena Weekly quoted Police Officer Brian Bozarth, who also noted that ignoring the initial ticket would not affect the violatorís DMV record or credit rating [see "Will Your Credit Rating be Dinged?," below]:


ďMore and more people are figuring out that they will not be punished if they refuse to pay the violation fine, let alone have to show up in court at all."  "Because the driver who was caught by a camera running a red light did not sign anything promising to appear in court, we have no legal recourse to issue a warrant for their arrest. The citation then gets handed over to a collection agency [see "Will Your Credit Rating be Dinged?," below], but even then after they mail a couple letters and make a couple annoying phone calls, they cannot force the violator to pay the fine.Ē
 
  On Mar. 28, 2012 another
LA Weekly article (archived copy) provided important details about ignoring tickets from cities in LA County, including this:

If you end up in traffic court for some other violation, and the judge asks you about that red-light skeleton in your closet, the same ignore-at-all-costs rule applies. "If you then acknowledge, 'I thought those were being dismissed,' you are now under the jurisdiction of the court," says [Attorney Sherman] Ellison.

Here is the proper response from a motorist:

Highwayrobbery.net: Ignore LA camera
                    tickets
New caption by highwayrobbery.net.  The original illustration by Dzack & Gaby is at http://destasdeblagues.d.e.pic.centerblog.net/16124dd0.jpg and a version in English is at http://imgur.com/gallery/fZ6QR

I've not actually heard from anyone who reported that during a traffic stop the officer brought up the motorist's ignored LA County red light camera ticket, so the advice given in this cartoon is for "just in case things change." 
Or, if it comes up in court.

As of Dec. 2014 the Mar. 2012 article had 76 comments.
(In early 2015 the Weekly changed to a new commenting system, and all old comments were lost.)

More articles:

Jan. 2014 Daily News

Jan. 2014 Interview of WeHo Sheriff

Jan. 2014 LA Weekly, headlined: "Yes You Can Still Ignore That Red Light Camera Ticket"
As of Dec. 2014 the Jan. 2014 LA Weekly article had 209 comments.
(In early 2015 the Weekly changed to a new commenting system, and all old comments were lost.)

Oct. 2015 NBC-TV (archived copy)



In Late 2011, Revenue was Down - by Half !


Court-provided revenue reports
showed that in Summer 2011, the time when the major media first wrote about the ability to ignore red light camera tickets in LA County, red light camera ticket revenue dropped sharply.


This example graph, by highwayrobbery.net, covers May 2010 to Oct. 2014.  The lowest point was Aug. 2011.  For the very latest graph, click on Revenue Spreadsheet, below.

During the Summer of 2011, revenue was off by about half.
But that didn't mean that half of those ticketed by LA County cities still were paying their camera tickets;  if 60% (a guess) were paying their tickets prior to June 2011, right after June 2011 it was more like 30%.

Some cities responded by issuing more tickets.  The LA County cities of Baldwin Park, Commerce, Covina, Culver City, Hawthorne, Lynwood, Santa Clarita, South Gate, Walnut and West Hollywood increased ticketing by 50% or more.  By early 2012, revenue had rebounded for many cities in the County.  To see the actual numbers, see this city-by-city and month-by-month...

Revenue Spreadsheet.

Source documents for the spreadsheet:
Distribution Tables  Explanation of Distribution Tables
Official Revenue Reports, May10 - Sep11
Official Revenue Reports, Oct10 - Dec10
Official Revenue Reports, Jan11 - Apr11
Official Revenue Report, Oct11

Official Revenue Report, Nov11
Official Revenue Report, Dec11
Official Revenue Report, Jan12
Official Revenue Report, Feb12
Official Revenue Report, Mar12
Official Revenue Report, Apr12
Official Revenue Report, May12
Official Revenue Report, Jun12
Official Revenue Report, Jul12
Official Revenue Report, Aug12
Official Revenue Report, Sep12
Official Revenue Report, Oct12
Official Revenue Report, Nov12
Official Revenue Report, Dec12
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Official Revenue Report, Apr13
Official Revenue Report, May13
Official Revenue Report, Jun13
Official Revenue Report, Jul13
Official Revenue Report, Aug13
Official Revenue Report, Sep13
Official Revenue Report, Oct13
Official Revenue Report, Nov13
Official Revenue Report, Dec13
Official Revenue Report, Jan14
Official Revenue Report, Feb14
Official Revenue Report, Mar14
Official Revenue Report, Apr14
Official Revenue Report, May14
Official Revenue Report, Jun14
Official Revenue Report, Jul 14
Official Revenue Report, Aug14
Official Revenue Report, Sep14
Official Revenue Report, Oct14
Official Revenue Report, Nov14
Official Revenue Report, Dec14
Official Revenue Report, Jan15
Official Revenue Report, Feb15
Official Revenue Report, Mar15
Official Revenue Report, Apr15
Official Revenue Report, May15
Official Revenue Report, Jun15
Official Revenue Report, Jul15
Official Revenue Report, Aug15
Official Revenue Report, Sep15
Official Revenue Report, Oct15
Official Revenue Report, Nov15
Official Revenue Report, Dec15
Between Jan16 and Jun16, these reports were not available.
Official Revenue Report, Jul16
Official Revenue Report, Aug16
Official Revenue Report, Sep16
Official Revenue Report, Oct16
Official Revenue Report, Nov16
Official Revenue Report, Dec16
Official Revenue Report, Jan17
Official Revenue Report, Feb17
Official Revenue Report, Mar17
Official Revenue Report, Apr17
Official Revenue Report, May17
Official Revenue Report, Jun17
Official Revenue Report, Jul17
Official Revenue Report, Aug17
Official Revenue Report, Sep17
Official Revenue Report, Oct17


Why Did the LA County Court Decide to Not Report Ignored Tickets to the DMV?


The Aug. 2011 press release (above) contains the official explanation.  But the cost of providing arraignments and trials for the 100,000+ red light camera tickets issued annually could have been a factor.  And in 2012 there was a
forced layoff of 1/10th of all Court personnel.



What Will Happen If You Ignore It?


At about the same time as your ticket arrives in the mail, you will receive a bail notice directly from the court letting you know how to pay and get traffic school, and how to set up a trial if you want to fight the ticket.  It will also warn you about things which could happen if you do not contact the court by the due date.



From the LA Court's Bail Notice


If you don't contact the court by the due date, they will send you a notice saying that a $300 fee is about to be added to your fine - unless you respond within 20 days.


Los Angeles County Civil Assessment Form
                        Letter

An example of the LA Court's Civil Assessment Notice


There will be no warrant for your arrest.




Will Your Credit Rating Be Dinged?


You may also receive one or two letters (example below) from the LA County court's collection agency, GC Services, but your ignored ticket will not show up on your credit report.


LA
                        County Collection - Traffic Court - GC Services
 
This
2015 article and this 2016 article, both about a recent $6 million settlement between the major credit reporting bureaus and the Attorneys General of 31 states, may help to explain why - even though California was not a party to the settlement.
Please also be sure to read the Court's August and September 2011 press releases, above.




Remember ...


Paying a LA County red light camera ticket is voluntary (optional) - unless you've already contacted the court.

If you contact the court ( or its website lacourt.org, formerly lasuperiorcourt.org ) and check your ticket status or sign up for an extension or an arraignment, that acknowledges that you received the mailed ticket.  If you then decide to do nothing further about the ticket and so do not take care of it by the due date (or the extended due date), it is possible that the court could report you to the DMV.  I do not know for sure.

It is OK to go on cite-web.com, photonotice.com, violationinfo.com or gatso.com, to view the photos/video of the violation - those photo viewing sites are run by the camera companies, not the court.

If the ticket was addressed to someone else in your family or household (your parent, your sibling, your child, etc.) and you and they have agreed to ignore it, make sure that whoever opens that person's postal mail knows that they are to consult with you before responding to any of the threatening letters that will come from the court and its collection agency.  (Doing something as basic as looking around on the court's website, or phoning the court or the collection agency, lets the court know that you received the mailed ticket and could cause the court to tell the DMV that you ignored it.)   



So, Do You Pay, or Not?


The decision to not report ignored tickets to the DMV was by the court, so it applies to ALL red light camera tickets in LA County, whether issued by the county sheriff, the MTA, or by a local police department.  Thus, were you to ignore the ticket, you would have a lot of company.  About 1/3 of the tickets are ignored, so by now there's probably several hundred thousand people - just in LA County - in the same boat as you would be.


Plus, were the court to change its mind, the most you would have to pay is $300 extra.  And there could even be an amnesty, like the one that began in 2015 (see below).



Whom to Believe? 
How Long Will This Last?
How Many People are Ignoring their Tickets?

 
Some lawyers and most of the $99 ticket fixing companies will advise you not to ignore these tickets in LA County.  Or, they may fail to tell you that there's the option to ignore.  Why?  The lawyer may be concerned that you will blame him if you ignore the ticket and then for some reason the court decides to start reporting ignored ticket to the DMV.
And the ticket fixing companies just want your $99.

It has been reported that staff in the office of a local councilman, and a reporter for one of the local daily newspapers, have been advising callers and readers that tickets from the red light cameras near the MTA/Metro busways and light rail cannot be ignored - the suggestion being that somehow, MTA/Metro tickets are stronger than those issued by the other agencies and cities in the County. 
The best indicator that their advice is incorrect is that in 2012 the MTA asked a state legislator to carry a bill which would have required the courts to issue bench warrants on ignored MTA/Metro tickets.
MTA's official reports of the percentage of tickets paid (available on the MTA Docs page) show why they were so concerned.
As of Dec. 2007, 75% of the (year-old) Orange Line tickets issued in Dec. 2006 had been paid, while
as of Dec. 2013 only 21% of the tickets issued in Dec. 2012 had been paid.  

Article
MTA Staff Report Discussing the Bill

The 2012 bill did not pass, but then in the 2014 session there was a
new bill which could have been amended to require warrants.  Had it passed (it did not), it would have gone into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

Now in 2017 there is another bill,
SB 185, which - if it passes - could change the rules beginning on Jan. 1, 2018. 

This table, part of a 2015 report critical of California's traffic courts, shows that beginning in 2011, something reduced the number of license suspensions.  Part of the reduction may be because of the LA County court's policy to not report ignored red light camera tickets to the DMV.


From "Not Just a Ferguson Problem - How Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California"
 

Will the LA court someday change its policy, and begin pursuing the old red light camera tickets that have been ignored?  About 1/3 of all camera tickets are ignored, so there's so many that it would be impractical for the court to pursue them. They don't have enough parking, clerks, judges, or courtrooms.  And, they have higher priorities, like dealing with crooked politicians, robbers, and murderers.  The closest the courts get to pursuing old tickets is that every few years they do a statewide amnesty, offering a discount to people who want to pay off their old tickets.   See Amnesty, next.


Amnesty!


Do you have an OLD ticket that you've been meaning to pay?  In late 2014 an effort began to start a pilot program to give the courts a greater incentive to pursue the collection of fines [see "Will Your Credit Rating be Dinged?," above]By 2015 that effort had morphed into an amnesty which began Oct. 1, 2015 and offers various levels of discounts off the fines, with the largest discounts going to motorists who are low income.  See the big box near the top of Section # 3, Handling Your Ticket, on the Your Ticket page.



Who's Running these Cameras?


The red light cameras in LA County are operated by seven cities (Beverly Hills, Commerce, Covina, Culver City, Hawthorne, Montebello, West Hollywood), plus the MTA/Metro, which has over 100 cameras.  (Even though most of Metro's cameras are located inside the City of Los Angeles, the tickets are reviewed and signed by the LA County Sheriff, not the LAPD.)  Each of the eight contracts with a red light camera company of its choosing, and that company installs the cameras.
All of the red light camera tickets are filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
For more info about the camera companies, read FAQ # 34.

If you are having trouble figuring out which city issued your ticket, read the Disambiguation section, at the bottom of the Camera Towns page.


There is a tenth group of cameras, which enforce stop signs in parks in the Santa Monica Mountains and Pacific Palisades.  Those tickets, issued by the MRCA, are not filed in the Superior Court.

  



Docs Set # 3
More Coming


There may be some more information posted in the next few weeks.  Mark your calendar to remind you to come back here and look!



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