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(Fighting) Your Ticket
page


This page includes info about Snitch Tickets (see Section 1, below)

"The use of police resources is the biggest factor. The time commitments for sworn personnel have grown exponentially. The citations issued have diminished, and there has been a large uptick in the amount of challenges due to the large amount of information about fighting the tickets. We now have an officer that is spending more time answering challenges to the tickets and is spending less time in the field."
Pasadena Dept. of Transportation Director Fred Dock, in a Dec. 15, 2011 Pasadena Weekly article about the decision to close (in June 2012) that city's red light camera program.


If you haven't already read the What's Hot box on the Home page, please have a look there, before continuing on this page.
(The What's Hot box is your pre-flight checklist, and you are likely to crash if you don't go through it.)


This (Fighting) Your Ticket page contains my recommendations as to what to do about your camera ticket.  It's in three main sections - scroll down, or click on these links:

1.  "Police Going Too Far..." (Fake/Snitch/Phishing Tickets, Sent Out by California and Arizona Police)

2.  "It's Not Me!" (Someone Else was Driving Your Car)

3.  Handling Your Ticket (Extensions, Delinquent Tickets & Collections, Traffic School, Avoiding a Point Even If Not Eligible for Traffic School, Trial by Declaration, Trial, Appeal)


I update portions of this website almost daily. If you are making a return visit after an absence of more than a day, I recommend that you hit the "reload" or "refresh" buttons, to make sure you have the latest version of the page you're interested in.

highwayrobbery.net is a free-of-charge public service.



(Fighting) Your Ticket Page:
- 1 -

Police Going Too Far . . .
( Fake/Snitch/Phishing Tickets - Sent Out by California and Arizona Police )
. . . in Bakersfield, Citrus Heights, Daly City, Del Mar, Elk Grove, Encinitas, Garden Grove, Hawthorne, Laguna Woods, Los Alamitos, Marysville, Menlo Park, Millbrae, Modesto, Napa, Newark, Oakland, Oceanside, Redding, Riverside, San Leandro, San Mateo, Santa Ana, Santa Clarita, Solana Beach, South San Francisco, Stockton, Victorville, Vista, Other California Towns, and Arizona Too

Be Prepared!

You've been around.  You grew up in The City and you're street smart.  You've been to college, too!  On your computer you've been phished, Spammed, and hit with ever-mutating viruses, malware and pop-ups.  You probably think you've seen every sneaky trick, con or scam ever devised and that highwayrobbery.net is just going to tell you about something you heard about years ago.
Nevertheless, prepare yourself to be educated (even if you are a rocket scientist, a lawyer, or a veteran newsman), amazed . . .   and disgusted.  This section is about a scam perpetrated by your local police - and that is why it works so well.  They mail out fake red light camera "tickets" to fool registered owners into disclosing the identity of the person who was driving their car or, to confirm that they (the registered owner) were the driver.
My name for these non-tickets is Snitch Tickets.  Another possible name for them would be "Phishing Tickets."

Cities send out a LOT of Snitch Tickets.

Bakersfield's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 46% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Daly City's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 42% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Del Mar's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 42% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Elk Grove's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 36% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Emeryville's chief stated that Snitch Tickets were 40% of what they sent out (their cameras were shut down in June 2012).
Hawthorne:  An April 2013 random sample showed that 49% of everything Hawthorne sent out was Snitch Tickets; later, the City's (required) annual report showed that the figure was 46% or more for all of 2013.
Hayward's police chief reported that in a typical month, her department mailed out about 730 Snitch Tickets, equal to 59% of everything they sent out (their cameras were shut down in May 2013).
Lynwood's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 55% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Marysville's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 81% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Menlo Park's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 32% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Modesto's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 46% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Napa's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 33% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Newark's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 35% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Oakland data showed that in 2009 Snitch Tickets were 42% of what they sent out; later, the City's (required) annual report showed that in 2013 the figure was 29% or more (their cameras were shut down in May 2014).
Oxnard's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 45% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Rancho Cordova's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 26% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Redding's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 44% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Riverside data showed that in 2011 Snitch Tickets were 47% of what they sent out; later, the City's (required) annual report showed that in 2013 the figure was 41% or more.
San Leandro's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 24% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
San Mateo's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 22% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Solana Beach's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 21% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Stockton's (required) annual report, and a four-year average of citations issued, showed that Snitch Tickets were 50% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Victorville's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 51% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.
Vista's (required) annual report showed that Snitch Tickets were 52% or more of everything they sent out in 2013.

The Required Annual Report, for RedFlex Cities


The info below applies only to California tickets.  If your ticket is from another state, see the "Other States" heading near the end of this section.


How to Recognize a Snitch Ticket

If the document you received looks like this...

Fake red light camera ticket, aka Snitch Ticket
(The most common fake ticket has the photos arranged 2 x 2 at the bottom)
More examples of fake tickets.


...and does not give the name of the Court and its street address and phone number, or if it says,
"Do not contact the Court" or
"This is Not a Ticket" or
"This is Not a Notice to Appear" or
"Failure to respond could result in a citation being issued in your name,"
it's probably not a real ticket.  It could be a fake - a Snitch Ticket - generated by the police.

A real ticket will usually look like this:

Real California red light camera ticket
(Most real tickets have the photos arranged in a column on the right side of the page)

All real tickets will say
NOTICE TO APPEAR (highlighted in the example above) and all real tickets will have this section telling you to contact ("Respond to") the court ...


(A section of a real ticket)
Examples of real tickets.



... and you should*.

*In LA County there is the option to not respond, even when it is a real ticket.  If your ticket is from a location in LA County, be sure to read Set # 2 on the LA County Docs page before you make any contact with the court.

(If you received a ticket notification by email, see the Other Confidence Men are Thinking section, below.)

Your document is a real ticket if you can look it up on the county court's
website.  But before you do that, please note -
(a)  If the ticket is from a city or agency in LA County, do not contact the court (or its website) before you have read
Set # 2 on the LA County Docs page.  (In LA County you have the option to ignore a red light camera ticket, but that option goes away if you contact the court.)
(b)  If it's not on the court's site, it still could be real!  Or, it could be a fake, a Snitch Ticket.
(c)  Make sure you are looking on the court's website, not the one - operated by the camera company - where you go to look at the ticket pictures.

Your document is a real ticket if you've also received a
Courtesy Notice from the court.  But please note -
(a)  You could still have a real ticket even if you haven't received a court-generated Courtesy Notice.
(b)  A court-generated Courtesy Notice will never tell you to contact anyone but the court.
(c)  Beginning in 2013, the fake tickets (Snitch Tickets) sent out by the police may carry a heading suggesting that they too are a court-generated Courtesy Notice.  The new heading, required by California Senate Bill 1303 of 2012, will say (in all caps), "Courtesy Notice: This is Not a Ticket."  For more info about the new heading, see the SB 1303 section on the Action/Legis page.


click to enlarge - Snitch Ticket - highwayrobbery.net

This is what happens in a city which uses Snitch Tickets.  To see what happens in other cities, go to the flowchart in the It's Not Me section, below.

Your document could be real even if the court's phone number is missing and its address is incomplete.  That's because some cities are leaving that info off their real tickets, to make it harder for defendants to fight their ticket in court.  See Defect # 8 - C for more details.

Unless it says
COURTESY NOTICE: THIS IS NOT A TICKET, the title printed at the top of the document will not help you to detect a fake ticket, because there is no solid law regulating what can be printed on a fake ticket.  Over the years, the police have made up titles like TRAFFIC VIOLATION NOTICE and NOTICE OF VIOLATION, and have used them on their fake tickets and on their real tickets.  There is only one title - Notice to Appear - whose use is sufficiently regulated so that you can count on it as an indicator of whether your document is real or fake.  Unfortunately, the regulators did not specify a minimum type size or require a prominent location for that official title, so it may often be set in small type and/or placed at the bottom of the page.  Notice to Appear will always be present on a real ticket, because a real ticket must include a Notice to Appear section, printed in this official format - which includes the official title in all caps.

Official form, California red
light camera ticket
Official Format for Notice to Appear Section of a Real Ticket
Examples of real tickets.


Beginning in 2013, most Snitch Tickets will include a straightforward warning that they are not a real ticket.  SB 1303 of 2012 requires Snitch Tickets to carry the heading, "Courtesy Notice: This is Not a Ticket."  However, the bill sets no particular penalty for a city which fails to add the new heading to its Snitch Tickets, so we will have to wait to see how many cities comply.  See Defect # 8 and the Action/Legis page for more info about SB 1303.  To see the early efforts officials made to keep the titles confusing, see "Story # 1" on
this page of emails from people who have dealt with their Snitch Ticket.

If you are now sure that your document is a real ticket (not a Snitch Ticket), go back to the What's Hot box (at the top of the Home/Defects page) and continue through the questions there.  If you already have gone all the way thru the What's Hot box, you can jump down this page to
Section 2:  "It's Not Me!" or Section 3:  Handling Your Ticket.  But if you think it could be a Snitch Ticket (not a real ticket), continue reading here...

Snitch Tickets are designed to look very much like a real ticket - but are legally very different.  To add to the confusion caused by the similar looks, real tickets and Snitch Tickets both ask the registered owner ("RO") to turn-in (or snitch on) the person who was driving the car.  Despite all that, there are some differences that you can rely on.  One of the best "tells" is that most Snitch Tickets will say, usually on the back of the page, "Do not contact the court about this notice" or "Failure to respond to this notice could result in a citation being issued in your name." (In towns where the cameras are operated by ATS, a Snitch Ticket may say, "This is not a Notice to Appear" on the front of the page, and on the back, "Do not forward this information to the Court.")

( "Tell:  A sign.  A behavioral clue that reveals something one tries to hide."  From The Urban Dictionary.)

Snitch Tickets also lack any wording directing you to contact or "Respond to" the court.  In fact, on a typical Snitch Ticket there is no phone number for the court, and the court's address usually is missing or incomplete.  (Please note, however, that in some towns the real tickets carry an incomplete address.  For more info about that, see Defect # 8 - C.)


What to Do About Your Snitch Ticket - Is It a Bluff? - Are They Just Phishing?

If you have received a Snitch Ticket, you can ignore it!

"You cannot get in trouble for not responding."
Emeryville Police Chief Kenneth James, Nov. 2011.  Source.

Police threats to place a "pending" flag on the DMV files (car registration and/or driver's license) of those who fail to respond to a Snitch Ticket are a bluff.

It's a bluff because a Snitch Ticket has no legal weight.  It has no legal weight because the city has not filed it with the court.  That's why a Snitch Ticket says, "Do not contact the court."
This pizza ad...

ad: 2 lg. pizzas $15.99

...has infinitely more legal weight than a Snitch Ticket.  (The pizzeria owner can be sued for false advertising if he refuses to give you the advertised deal.)


Snitch Tickets:  A Phishing Expedition

In the towns listed above the police are going to great lengths to get registered owners to identify who was driving their car.  In those towns, if the technicians reviewing the photos see that the pictured driver is obviously not the registered owner (gender mismatch, great difference in age, or a rental car) or that the photo is too blurry to be sure of who it is, one tactic they use is to send the registered owner an official-looking notice telling him that he must identify the driver.  (In the law enforcement business, they call these notices a "Nomination" or a "Corporate Notice."  I call them Snitch Tickets.)  When I first heard about this "phishing" by the police, I did a little investigating.  The results are in the letter below, which I wrote to the supervising judge in El Cajon.

( Phishing:  Pronounced "fishing."  1. "This involves creating a replica of a legitimate web page to hook users and trick them into submitting personal or financial information or passwords."  From The Spam Economy.   2. "In computing, phishing is a criminal activity using social engineering techniques.  Phishers attempt to fraudulently acquire sensitive information... by masquerading as a trustworthy person.... Phishing is typically carried out using email or an instant message, although phone contact has been used as well."  From Wikipedia.com. )

December 14, 2003

Supervising Judge Herbert Exarhos
East Division, San Diego Superior Court

Your Honor:

I edit a website about red light cameras, www.highwayrobbery.net.

Recently I received an email from a motorist telling me about a notice he received from the El Cajon Police Department.  A copy of that notice is enclosed.

The notice, while it appears to be a traffic ticket, doesn't contain some of the important information usually found on a ticket, namely, the address of the court.  In fact, the notice says, "Do not call the court regarding this notice."  My correspondent told me that when he contacted the police and twice asked for a court date, he was told that he could not have one unless he filled out the form supplying the name of the driver.

I phoned the ECPD myself, and pretended to be a recipient of one of their notices.  I asked if I could simply bypass the police, and go directly to court.  The ECPD told me that the court wouldn't have a record of the ticket, so I wouldn't be able to appear.  Then I asked if I could ignore the notice.  The ECPD said it would remain "pending" at the DMV and that I would not be able to renew my registration.

There is a lot of arm-twisting done by police departments in connection with camera tickets, but El Cajon's is far beyond any that I have seen.  Would you please let me know if the ECPD's procedure meets with your approval?

Sincerely,


Judge Exarhos did not reply.  On May 28, 2004 I sent the same letter to (then) DMV Director Chon Gutierrez in Sacramento, but with an additional question:  How would a motorist go about removing such a "pending" flag from the DMV files, so that he can renew his registration?

On Sept. 24, 2004, DMV Director Gutierrez replied to my May 28 letter and sent me a
letter noting that DMV staff had contacted the El Cajon police department, and that "The representative [of the ECPD] stated that it is not the practice of the agency to place a law enforcement stop in the DMV database on pending red light violations."  In an earlier phone call, DMV staff told me that unpaid parking tickets are the only reason for which a city is permitted to flag your registration, and that only a court can flag your driver's license.


Snitch Tickets:  Still Not Convinced?



Here is a discussion that occurred in court, under oath.
Judge: "What if I loan someone my car?"
Officer: "If we know that's not you, we send a Nomination."
Judge: "Are they required to tell you who it is?  If they don't?"
Officer: "There's no law saying they have to."

The existence and use of Nominations (fake/Snitch Tickets) is rarely mentioned in the documents and correspondence exchanged between cities and the camera companies, because they know that the public can access those records via the Public Records Act.   An early
mention of Nominations was found in the proposal RedFlex made in 2008 to a city that was considering installing cameras.  More recently, as part of their continuing effort to hide the existence of the fake tickets, the Industry has coined a new name for the fakes:  Corporate Notice.

Here is a
page with stories from people who have dealt with a Snitch Ticket.

There are some news stories about Snitch tickets - scroll down to the green heading, "Why Do Snitch Tickets Work So Well?"

If you still are not convinced, and are worried that something might be going on at the court, you could look up the phone number of the court (in the phone book or on their
website), call them and ask if an action has been brought against you.  Then if you are still unsure, run it by a friend who is an attorney or knowledgeable in legal matters.  If you don't have an attorney friend who will consult for free, you can get a consult from one of the traffic ticket attorneys in your phone book (or from an attorney whose name you can get from the bar association referral service) for as little as $35.  If you follow this "attorney" route, you will need to explain carefully to him or her what it is you have received, as many attorneys have never heard of Snitch Tickets.  You will want to point out to him (a) that there's no court address, (b) the "don't contact the court" language, and (c) that you have called the court and there is no record of the ticket.


What Will Happen Next?

Usually, nothing!  It is rare to hear of any further pursuit, by the police, of people who have ignored a Snitch Ticket.  I think the police have not designed follow-up tactics because Snitch Tickets are so successful - I estimate that 90% of recipients are tricked into responding.

Here are the things I've heard of.

1.  A couple cities have sent out "second request" letters.

2.  I've only heard of this happening a couple times, but ya never know...
One police officer phoned a small business that had been issued a Snitch Ticket on one
of its company cars, described the man in the picture to the receptionist, and asked
her if she knew who that person was!  If your business has been issued a Snitch Ticket,
you probably need to tell your staff what to do if the police call.

3.  One police officer phoned the home of a male registered owner, hoping that the
female driver he saw in the camera photo would answer the phone.  A woman answered.
The officer identified himself, then started talking about a red light running incident,
then finally asked her to identify herself !
Your mother taught you what to do with creepy phone calls, didn't she?  After all,
how do you know it's not a prank call from "Punk'd," the TV show?


Snitch Tickets:  Why Do They Do It?

He doesn't really NEED all those fish...
( "Fish:  Jail term for new prisoners."  From The Hobo Traveler. )

Most of these "Police Going Too Far..." cities have contract terms which give the city a financial incentive to issue more tickets.  If you're not satisfied with such a simplistic explanation, read on...

A typical contract requires the city to pay the vendor a rent of $6000 per month per camera.  The need to recoup the rent gives the police an incentive to issue more tickets.  Sometimes the police are looking to make a big profit:

"It's a half million dollars in fines that we would not normally have collected."
Emeryville Police Chief Kenneth James.  Source.

When they are first processing the violation photos, if they see that the face photo is obviously not the registered owner, or that it is of such poor quality that it would not be accepted by a judge as proof of who the driver was, some cities choose to send the registered owner a document ("Snitch Ticket") which looks like a real ticket, but is not.  Consider this
2012 discussion between a RedFlex employee and a Riverside employee (found in emails obtained via a public records request):

RedFlex employee:  "I can reissue this but you can't see the face on the correct vehicle at all.  The windshield is very dirty and it caused a glare."
Riverside employee: "Thanks.  It subsequently went out as a Corporate Notice [Snitch Ticket] to 'educate' the driver."


Sending you the Snitch Ticket is the police's attempt to get you to identify the driver.  If you fill-out the blanks on the Snitch Ticket form, sign it under penalty of perjury, and mail it back to them, the police can be confident that if they issue a real ticket to the person you have identified, it will stick.

Why don't they skip the step of mailing a Snitch Ticket, and just issue a real ticket to the registered owner, no matter how questionable the identity or how obvious the gender/age mismatch, ignoring the lack of Probable Cause?  Answer: Some cities do just that, despite the landmark 2001 decision which closed-down San Diego's first red light camera system, in which the judge wrote:

"2. Gender Mismatches"
"The most disturbing testimony at this hearing came from Officer Smalley who testified that even when he had a 95 percent belief that the individual in the photograph was not the registered owner because of a fairly obvious gender difference, he would issue the citation on the theory that he was not 100 percent certain.  This procedure has been halted over the objection of Officer Smalley.  The police now do not issue citations where there is an obvious gender discrepancy between the driver and registered owner.  Further, the prosecution has moved to dismiss the gender mismatch cases pending in this court.  Therefore, there is no need to analyze whether such a prior procedure constituted outrageous governmental conduct."

From Section III(B)(2) of Ronald Styn's Aug. 15, 2001 ruling in People v. John Allen, with emphasis added.

Another trial court decision about the lack of Probable Cause is the 2014 decision in People v. Tho--.

When a police department chooses not to use Snitch Tickets, it can lead to the abuse described in the big flowchart in the It’s Not Me! section of this page, below.



Why Do Snitch Tickets Work So Well?

Traffic Enforcement Office = The Camera Company
They'll say anything!  This is the envelope one Snitch Ticket arrived in.
(The "Traffic Enforcement Office" is the private company which operates the cameras.)


Probably the biggest reason Snitch Tickets work so well is that they take advantage of your trust and confidence in the police.  "Confidence" is the first word in "con man."

From an Internet newsgroup discussion:

Post-er # 1:  "BS.  It is self-evident that any so-called citation which doesn't tell you when and where to challenge it in court, is not a legal ticket."

Post-er # 2:  " 'Self-evident' only to those of us who have been pulled over by a cop and given a regular ('good old fashioned') ticket a few times.  I admit that that describes me.  I suspect it describes you, too.  You and I know what a real ticket says and what it orders you to do.  But there are at least two groups of people who don't have that knowledge.

1.  Your auntie, who never has had a ticket in her life, until now she gets one in the mail.  (Cameras with too-short yellows tend to catch mature people who drive at moderate speeds.  The young lead-foots are going fast enough to make it through on a short yellow.)

2.  People here from another country where tickets are handled in another fashion, such as by payment directly to the officer who pulled you over.  That's not just Mexico, by the way."


The Media Cover-up

Another reason Snitch Tickets work so well is because the Mainstream Media (TV, radio, newspapers, magazines) is reluctant to write about them; reporters get many of their story "leads" from the police, so they they don't want to get the police mad at them.  An occasional story gets out, though.

2005:  
The Community Newspaper, San Marcos
2008:  
Inland Empire Weekly
2009:  
Handel on the Law
2011:  
David Goldstein on CBS-TV (Or Google CBS Snitch Ticket)
2011:  
Tara Moriarty on KTVU-2 San Francisco
2012:  
San Francisco Chronicle

Here's a TV reporter who showed us his "ticket" - an obvious Snitch Ticket - but he never mentioned that angle.  Maybe he didn't realize it was fake, until too late!  
(Watch video)

Snitch Ticket rec'd by KRON's Jonathan Bloom
KRON's Jonathan Bloom Holding One of Emeryville's Fake Tickets

Beginning in 2013, a Snitch Ticket may include a straightforward warning that it is not a real ticket.  SB 1303 of 2012 requires Snitch Tickets to carry the heading, "Courtesy Notice: This is Not a Ticket."  The bill sets no particular penalty for a city which fails to add the new heading to its Snitch Tickets, so we will have to wait to see how many cities comply.  And we will have to wait to see if the public notices the new warning - or overlooks it.  See Defect # 8 and the Action/Legis page for more info about SB 1303.


For the many writers/reporters/editors/publishers who are hesitant to write about Snitch Tickets, I offer this from Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Gary Webb:

"If we had met five years ago, you wouldn't have found a more staunch defender of the newspaper industry than me . . .
"I was winning awards, getting raises, lecturing college classes, appearing on TV shows, and judging journalism contests . . .
"And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I'd enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn't been, as I'd assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job . . .  The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn't written anything important enough to suppress."

From "The Mighty Wurlitzer Plays On" by Gary Webb, published as Chapter 14 of Into the Buzzsaw, Edited by Kristina Borjesson.

If you're a reporter and are not hesitant to write about Snitch Tickets, etc., click on: 
Info for Journalists.



Other Confidence Men are Thinking:  "If People Will Pay Snitch Tickets, Why Not . . . "

Here's an excerpt from an article in the Nov. 27, 2004 San Diego Union-Tribune.
"San Diego police are warning of a scam that involves letters to people supposedly caught speeding by a hidden camera.  The letters demand payment of $295, and warn that failure to send in the money could result in suspension of the person's drivers license."
Here is a website that has images of the fake speeding ticket letter.

Here's a new, more modern scam, from 2012.  You receive an email notifying you that you have violated a red light.  The email says that you can view photos of the violation by opening an attached file.
Which could contain a virus.


Some Non-Motoring Confidence Scams

1. The school scrip scam.  Many elementary school PTAs or PTOs station a parent out in the parking lot to sell "scrip" to other parents who are coming by, delivering their kids to school.  The scrip is similar to a gift certificate, and can be used to pay for merchandise at local grocery stores, candy stores, etc.  The scammer purchases a large amount of scrip, by personal check.  By the time the PTA or PTO finds out that the check was bad, the scrip has already been exchanged for merchandise.

2. The interest rate scam.  I added this "non-motoring scam" box because earlier today while I was pedaling my exercycle and watching the Morning Show, I got a call from a lady offering to lower my credit card interest rate to 6.2%.  Or was it 2.6?  She said there would be no cost to me - the government and the mortgage industry were sponsoring the program, to help keep the American economy alive.  She asked me if I owed a lot, and what interest rate I'd been paying.  I told her that both figures were sky high.  She asked me a few other easy questions, and once we'd gotten to know each other, she asked me to read her my card number, the expiration date, and the three-digit security code off the back.  Then she put me on hold to see if I would get approved for the rate reduction.  She came back in a few minutes, said that my bank didn't recognize the card number!  Could I read it to her again?  I complied, including correcting a transposition I'd made earlier, but it still didn't work.  We tried a couple more times, but after 25+ minutes, she gave up, told me that I would not qualify.  Oh well... next time I'll be sure to put on my reading glasses.


Snitch Tickets:  Do They Issue Just a Few, or a Lot?

A lot!

In an
Oct. 2011 report to the city council, Hayward's police chief said that each month her department sends out (approx.) 730 Snitch Tickets.

In a Nov. 2011 piece, KTVU-2 reported:
"Emeryville police say almost 40% of the red light camera tickets they send out are Snitch Tickets."

People who have been fooled into responding to a fake ticket are reluctant to admit it.  Many probably never realize what happened.
In the early days of this website I didn't know about the fake tickets, and I assumed that the occasional reports I got about unusual tickets were from people who misunderstood their real ticket, or had heard a rumor.
Here is how I became aware that Snitch Tickets really existed, and got an idea of how often they were issued.
I was looking at some of the monthly invoices RedFlex had sent to the City of Inglewood.  I had been told that the City's Crenshaw / 108th cameras had been closed down beginning Sept. 7, 2004, but I noticed that the invoices showed (real) tickets for that intersection still being issued as late as January 2005, with 204 being issued in the period Oct. 1 to Jan. 31.  The mailing out of Snitch Tickets (which RedFlex did not invoice the City for) was the only likely explanation for the time lag in the issuance of those real tickets. (For the raw numbers, see
Inglewood Documents, Set # 2.  Also see footnotes 8 and 9 under Set # 2.)
Another city that issues Snitch Tickets is Hawthorne.  To look at the numbers, see Set # 2 of
Hawthorne Documents.
In the data from Inglewood and Hawthorne, it's not possible to tell exactly how many Snitch Tickets were issued, but a table I received from another city actually lists how many were issued each month.  To see it, go to
Fairfield Documents and click on "2008 Counts."


Were You Snitched On?
Did You Snitch on Yourself?

If someone else turned you in (filled-out the affidavit giving your name and address to the police - who then sent you a real ticket - a Notice to Appear), you may want to talk to that person, as the document they received might have been a Snitch Ticket which they could have ignored instead of turning you in.
But if what they received was a real ticket, they had little choice - if they didn't turn you in, they would have had to appear in court and tell the judge, "It's not me!"
If you were driving a car belonging to your company or to a rental/leasing company, it is likely that what the company received was a Snitch Ticket - which they could have ignored, rather than turning you in.  More than likely they recognized that the ticket was a fake and knew that they they could ignore it, but chose not to.  You may want to ask them to make it their policy to not respond to the fake tickets.
If someone supplied your name to the police, their written identification of you as the driver cannot be used against you in court.  And I have never seen an officer/prosecutor even try to do so, because it would so clearly be hearsay.  If the prosecutor was really desperate to convict you, he would need to subpoena the person who identified you to come to court and testify in person;  I have never seen that happen, either.

If the original "ticket" was actually a fake ticket (Snitch Ticket) issued in your name, and you filled-out the affidavit form and later received a real ticket - a Notice to Appear - in the mail, your identification of yourself as the driver ordinarily could not be used against you in court, due to the Fifth Amendment.  Unless you were to testify that it was not you driving!

If you were snitched on, or snitched on yourself, be sure to read Defect # 8.


Don't Do This!

It's legally OK to ignore a Snitch Ticket, but it is not OK to fill-in the name of someone who doesn't exist and thereby send the police on a
Wild Goose Chase.


Snitch Tickets:  Getting the Word Out

It is up to us individual motorists to spread the word, because - as discussed above - the Mainstream Media (newspapers, TV, radio) is afraid to write articles about Snitch Tickets.  But they might be willing to publish your letter to the editor.  If you write one, I recommend that you ask for your name to be withheld from publication.

Please also let me know about your Snitch Ticket - especially if yours is from a town not yet mentioned in the list at the top of this page.  Your information will help me keep track of which cities issue them, and how frequently they do so.  I would also like to know if you think that the name Snitch Ticket should be replaced with something like "Bluff Ticket" or "Phishing Ticket."

Here are materials you can pin up on bulletin boards, to warn others about Snitch Tickets.


Other States:  Are Snitch Tickets One of Those "Only in California" Things?

Arizona has them too, but there are major differences between theirs, and California's.  For more info on Arizona Snitch Tickets, see the Mesa section on the Camera Towns page.
I suspect that there may be Snitch Tickets in use in other "
driver responsibility" states besides California and Arizona, but haven't been able to confirm that, yet.


Gridlock Tickets, by Mail

Did you get a gridlock ticket in the mail, complete with photos of your car?  Read this thread:  
Gridlock Ticket



End of Section 1, "Police Going Too Far..." (Snitch Tickets, etc.)

Who ever thought that this would be

The Good Old Days?


(Fighting) Your Ticket Page:
- 2 -

"It's Not Me!"


Is the Ticket from a City in LA County, or from a Camera near a LA County MTA Busway or Light Rail Line?

In June of 2011 we found out that the LA County Superior Court has not been reporting ignored tickets to the DMV!  For info about the option to ignore LA County red light camera tickets, go to Set # 2 on the LA County Documents page.



If it's not you in the photo, you don't have to identify the person driving.

Is your name on the ticket, but it's someone else in the picture?  In California, these tickets can put a point on your driver's license, so they have to have a picture of your face.  A picture of your license plate doesn't establish that you personally did the crime - it only establishes that your car did it, and anyone could have been driving your car.

There are two different "It's not me!" situations.
(1)  If the police sent you a paper that looks like a ticket, but it doesn't give the name and full address of the Court, or it says, "Do not contact the court" (in small print on the back of the page), it may not be a real ticket at all;  it may be a fake ticket, what I call a "Snitch Ticket."  Go to the section titled "Police Going Too Far...," above, to read about those.
(2)  If your ticket gives the name and full address of the Court and says you are to go there or "respond to" the Court by a certain date, that's a genuine ticket - keep reading here.


It's a Real Ticket - but "It's Not Me!"

Is the mismatch between the person ticketed and the actual driver really obvious, like a combined age AND gender mismatch?

If so, be sure to let me know about your ticket.


The easiest way to dispose of an "It's not me!" ticket is to give the police the name of the person who was actually driving.  But if you don't want to turn them in, you don't have to.


Even though there is no law
requiring you to identify the driver,
most police departments, and even some courts,
will tell you that you must.
Sometimes it is OK for the police to make such a false/misleading statement - they are allowed to lie, in order to investigate crime and get criminals to confess.
But it is not OK for the court to do so.


( If you want to read more about why you don't have to ID the driver, scroll way down to the subsection titled "It's Not Me!" - Why You Don't have to ID the Driver. )


"It's Not Me!"  -  First (Optional) Step (of four):  Contact the Police ?

Please be sure to read this First Step, even though contacting the police is totally optional.  And, before you take any action under this First Step, please read all of the Second Step, below.  

If the ticket is in your name but it's not you in the photo, and the photo is sufficiently clear that a comparison between it and your driver's license photo would raise a strong doubt that it was you driving the car, you could call the police phone number that is usually printed somewhere on the ticket, and ask them to dismiss the ticket.  (Please note that doing this - contacting the police - is optional.)  If you get repeated busy signals, no reply to voicemails you have left, or end up talking to a clerk who keeps saying, "Please identify the driver," you could try calling the Traffic Division at the police department directly, via the city hall operator, and asking for the officer who signed your ticket - or his boss.  And, you could, as many defendants do, make an appointment and go to the police department in person in hopes that you can convince them to dismiss your ticket.


Caveats - Beware!

1.  You can "dummy up" and refuse to tell the police who was driving your car, but it is illegal to send them on a
Wild Goose Chase by filling-out the affidavit (a.k.a. "Section D") with the name of someone who doesn't exist.

2.  If you were the driver but are not named on the ticket, you should not be the one to contact the police.  Leave that to the registered owner ("R.O."), or whoever is named on the ticket.

3.  Once your "It's not me!" ticket has been dismissed against you, the police are free to issue the ticket to someone else. They have several ways to find the other driver. If their workload allows them the time, they can use their computer to look at all driver's licenses with the same mailing address as yours, and compare the photos. If that doesn't work, they can pull up the citation history for your car, check out any old tickets issued to someone other than you, and look at the photos of those drivers. Or look around on your Facebook page.

4.  When you are named on the ticket but it was not you driving, it is actually better if the face photo is a clear one. Some judges, when presented with a blurry photo and an "Are you sure it's me?" motion from a defendant who hasn't volunteered to identify the driver, will find the defendant "guilty" anyway. Here is a
transcript (Hawthorne) where the judge came very close to doing that.

5.  If you have filled out the affidavit and sent it in, but have not been able to confirm that the ticket against you has been dismissed, you still will have to take action by the "Respond to the Court" date shown on the ticket - or before the expiration of any extension you have obtained.



First Step, continued...  Notes from Defendants

The first of these notes suggests that contacting the police may be a waste of time, or it could even make things worse!

"I phoned the police department for my mother in order to have them dismiss any action against her (my 82 year old father was driving).  After harassing me to give him the name of the driver (and my refusal to do so), the police officer was able to look up my father's driver's license photo [since his license was at the same address as my mother's].  The citation came in the mail a few days later."


A visit to the PD:

"The picture of the driver in my ticket was blurry so I went to meet with the police to review the video and zoomed-in photos.  Immediately, the person there was convinced that I couldn't have been the person driving.  Like your website stated many times, this person insisted that I identify who was driving the vehicle.  This person explicitly told me that the responsibility to ID the driver was on my shoulders.  I didn't want to argue with the police officer at this time so I remained silent and gave a blank look.  My only intention today was to gather data and observe reaction.  I then asked a simple question about contesting the ticket.  Without answering my question, this person told me not to ask for a court date but instead ID the driver and let the new person go to court instead.  They further threatened that if I did not ID the other driver, they will look up all drivers at my residence and try to do a matching. [See the purple "Caveats" box, above, about "matching."]  I told them politely to go ahead and do it, and left the building."


Arm Twisting
In most cities, there's a lot of arm twisting going on!

Another phone call to the PD:

"I received a red light ticket in the mail.  The picture was not clear.  The ticket was issued in June but I didn't get the notice until October.  They had an incorrect address.  I called the # on the ticket (it was a real ticket, not a Snitch Ticket) and spoke to the officer.  I told him that it wasn't me.  I asked if HIS picture was clear.  He told me it was crystal clear (a lie).  I said that in that case I would go to court and get a court date and we would have the judge decide if it was me or not.  He said that if I would work with him he could take care of it over the phone.  I said what can you do?  He put me on hold for several minutes and came back and told me that they had a new system and it was hard to figure out (another lie), and to hold on again.  I held for several more minutes until he came back on and said, 'Since it isn't you I will dismiss it right now.'"


Another visit to the PD - with narrative by the defendant and his mom.  The defendant wrote:

"I appeared at the red light police officer's office.  He asked me who was driving and when I said it was not me he drilled me as to who was in the picture.  He kept telling me I must know the person and needed to tell him.  Then another officer came over, told me he thought I was protecting a family member and said I must know who it was and that I needed to tell him.  Thanks to your website, I learned the law does not require me to say anything other than ' it is not me.' "
From the defendant's mom:  "My son explained that he has a sister and maybe one of her friends took the car to go out for pizza or something, and went on to state he rarely if ever comes to [the city where the violation occurred] for any purpose (it is about 40 miles from his residence) and again reminded the officer he was there because he needs to have this ticket removed from his DMV driving record and it was preventing him from renewing his license.  The first officer again said, 'Who was driving? You had to know, you got to know who is driving your car.'  My son replied respectfully, 'Hey guys, I know it is not me.'  He mentioned again that he needed the ticket dismissed so that he could renew his license.  The main officer then said 'Well, I guess we have no choice but to dismiss it.' "
The defendant wrote:  "These guys really work overtime to force you to say who was driving.  They would not give me anything in writing that I could take to a judge to expedite the [renewal of my license]."


First Step, continued...

Based upon emails I've received from defendants, many police departments are threatening, like the ones depicted above - or worse.  But there could be exceptions.  Here is the letter one department (West Hollywood) sent to a defendant who had a question about his "It's not me!" ticket.

"This is not a problem for you. If you are not the driver of the vehicle, then you are not guilty of anything.  The law simply requires that we mail these citations to the registered owner of the photographed vehicle.
"The easiest way to resolve this problem is to come in and see me.  I take appointments every Wednesday between 9:30 and 11:30 am. I take walk-ins as well as scheduled appointments.  I'll examine the photos and if you are not the defendant or if the photograph is not legible, then I'll dismiss it.  It's that simple and the process takes less than 2 minutes.  We are located at the West Hollywood Sheriff's Station 720 N. San Vicente Blvd West Hollywood, CA 90069. Phone (310) 855-8850 ext. 505."

You do not have to tell the police who the driver was, either when you are talking to them, or by filling out the spaces on the back of the ticket.  One police department has even admitted that on TV...

Bakersfield PD Det. Mary DeGeare
"...sure, we think that you should identify the violator.... But there's no law that says you have to do that."
Bakersfield Police Public Information Officer Det. Mary DeGeare, on KGET, July 20, 2005.

The full text of the story is below.  Or watch it.

Anchor Robin Mangarin:  Red light cameras can catch you red handed, but what if you weren't the one behind the wheel?  Should you be compelled to snitch on your wife or kids if they get caught running a red light?  KGET-17's Kiyoshi Tomono has the story of a Bakersfield man who faced that very dilemma.
Reporter Kiyoshi Tomono:  A flash of light and suddenly you're caught on camera and getting a ticket for running a red light.  It happened to local lawyer Bill Slocumb.  Thing is, neither he nor his wife was behind the wheel.
"My stepdaughter ran the red light southbound on Coffee Road onto Truxtun Avenue," said Slocumb.
But Slocumb's wife got the $350 ticket.
In the same envelope was a form encouraging the couple to divulge who may have been driving if it wasn't them.
They decided to fight in court.
Slocumb said the judge didn't push the issue and dismissed the ticket, but the Bakersfield police still wanted to know who was driving.
"The officer who apparently runs the red light program demanded [during a phone conversation before the court session] to know the name of the driver, the address of the driver, whether I knew if she was a California licensed driver or not, and we simply told him that we were not interested in providing that information," said Slocumb.
But does the officer's request or the city's form have any teeth?
Police said it's a matter of civic duty and safety.
"If someone is driving your car and they run the red light and they [or you] get the notification, sure, we think that you should identify the violator," said Det. Mary DeGeare from the Bakersfield Police Department. "It's an infraction.  It's a red light violation.  But there's no law that says you have to do that."
DeGeare said not being able to identify the driver is not the norm.
"There's a process in place that helps us identify who the driver is," she said.  "We're able to compare, usually, the violator's photo to their driver's license photo."
Reporter Tomono:  Bottom line, read the fine print.
Slocumb said he thinks he's lucky because he's a lawyer.
"I guess it was a happy ending and we moved on with our lives," he said.

From KGET-TV, with emphasis added, and with clarifying notes in [  ].


First Step, more...

While you're there, get your Late Time!
And, write down the names of the officers you talked with.
(That info may come in handy later.)

If you have decided to visit the police, and your ticket was issued by one of the Nestor/ATS cities that doesn't print the Late Time on the ticket, or by an ACS camera that prints it so small and fuzzy that you can't read it, then while you are at the station be sure to ask the police to show you your Late Time.
(For more info about these tickets with missing or illegible Late Times, see Defect # 5 and the How to Read Your Late Time box in Defect # 7.)


First Step, almost done...

If It Obviously wasn't You, Should the Police Even have Filed the Charges ?

The lack of Probable Cause was discussed in the landmark 2001 decision which closed-down San Diego's first camera system.  The judge wrote:

"Gender Mismatches"
"The most disturbing testimony at this hearing came from Officer Smalley who testified that even when he had a 95 percent belief that the individual in the photograph was not the registered owner because of a fairly obvious gender difference, he would issue the citation on the theory that he was not 100 percent certain. This procedure has been halted over the objection of Officer Smalley. The police now do not issue citations where there is an obvious gender discrepancy between the driver and registered owner. Further, the prosecution has moved to dismiss the gender mismatch cases pending in this court. Therefore, there is no need to analyze whether such a prior procedure constituted outrageous governmental conduct."

From Section III(B)(2) of Judge Ronald Styn's Aug. 15, 2001 ruling in People v. John Allen.

In 2014 there was another trial court decision about Probable Cause, in People v. Tho--.

Some recent
contracts specify that where there is a gender mismatch, the police are to mail out a fake/Snitch Ticket rather than filing charges (a Notice to Appear) at the court.


This defendant got his gender mismatch ticket dismissed by writing to the PD:


"Dear Officer ______,   On Sept. 4, 2007 I spoke to you regarding citation # _______ which you issued to me on Aug. 14, 2007. In that conversation I informed you that I was living in (another state) and had been since April of 2007 and that I had not received the photo evidence used by you to issue the citation. After you stated to me that “It couldn't be you because it is a female driving the car,” it was mutually agreed that the driver of the vehicle shown in the photo was not the same person named in the citation. You then asked me to “nominate” the driver . I replied that I would not “nominate” anyone without seeing the photos first. I requested that you send me a copy of the photographic evidence so that I could review it. I have received the photos and after careful review I am unable to identify the driver shown in the photos. The photo quality is very poor and the driver appears to be wearing large sunglasses that cover most of the face. I am unable to positively identify the person driving in the photo you sent me and therefore cannot “nominate” the driver of the vehicle.
I am enclosing a color photocopy of my valid Calif. Drivers License and my valid (other state's) Identification Card. Both can be verified through DMV records. Both have a clear photo of myself. When compared to the driver in the photographic evidence you sent me there is clearly no evidence that the person named in the citation is the same person driving the vehicle on the date and time indicated. Based on the comparison of the citation photo and the ID / CDL photos included I hereby request that you dismiss the citation.
Respectfully,



If you visited the police but they refused to dismiss your ticket despite an obvious gender or age mismatch, and there is no way they would be able to find out who was driving your car (see the purple "Caveats" box, above), you could file a claim against the city for the wages you will lose while attending court due to their "outrageous governmental conduct."  If you file the claim well before your scheduled arraignment date, maybe the city attorney will figure out that it's best to dismiss your case before your claim mounts up.  Claim forms can be obtained by phoning the city attorney's office.  Or, you could contact the "public integrity" or "justice system integrity" division of the local district attorney's office, and complain to them.  Or, you could contact the Bar Association and file a complaint against the city attorney or city prosecutor, for filing charges despite a lack of Probable Cause.

Here is a diagram of what can happen in a city that does not use Snitch Tickets.

The irony: What happens without Snitch Tickets
"R.O." is registered owner.  Also read the big purple "Sneaky Lies" box, just below.

Before you take any action under this First Step, please read all of the Second Step, below.


"It's Not Me!"  -  Second (Optional) Step (of four):  Get an Arraignment Date ?

If you decided not to contact the police, or you did and the police refused to dismiss, "twisted your arm" to try to get you to identify the driver, or are just dragging their feet and wasting your time, you could call the court and get an arraignment date.   (If it is inconvenient for you to come to an in-court arraignment in person, don't make an arraignment date.  Instead, see the "It's Not Me!"  -  Third (Optional) Step: Trial by Declaration section, below.)

If you're not sure what an arraignment is, see the big green
Confusing Courthouse Terminology box, further down this page.  Then come back here!

And, if you have never been to traffic court before, you might want to read this
article about it, to get the "feel" of what traffic court is like.


Sneaky Lies Encountered While Handling It's Not Me! Tickets

1)  If the Court's address and phone number are not on the ticket, the ticket may not be real!  It could be a Snitch Ticket, as described in the "Police Going Too Far..." section, above.  On the back of many of these fake tickets it says that you "must" fill out the form and identify the driver.  You don't have to!

2)  On the back of some real tickets (a Notice to Appear), it may say that you "must" fill out the form.  That sort of deceptive language is OK on a fake ticket, but not OK on a real ticket - because a real ticket is a court document, with a court-prescribed format.  If you receive a real ticket saying that you must fill out the form and identify the driver, please let me know right away.  The position of the word "must" is important.  It's OK if it says,
"If you were not the driver, complete the Identify New Driver form and return it in the enclosed envelope.  You must complete all the information regarding this citation for your name to be considered for dismissal.  If you do not complete all the required fields, this citation will remain in your name."
3)  Sometimes the city's website will say that you "must" identify the driver.  Let me know if you see a website saying that.

Corona's site 9-23-09: You must ID driver!
City of Corona website as of Sept. 23, 2009, emphasis added.

4)  When you call some courts, you may get a recording that tells you, if you were not the driver, that you must identify the driver.  Or, it may say to call the "Traffic Violations Bureau" or the "Traffic Enforcement Office," which will turn out to be the office of the camera company that is working for the city.  And the attendant there will tell you that you must identify the driver.  See this example from San Diego, Docs Set # 5.

5)  If you access the website for some courts, you may see a statement saying that you must identify the driver.   See these examples from Marysville, Docs Set # 1, and Bakersfield Docs Set # 12.  Let me know if you see a court website saying you must identify the driver.

camera companies + police + courts =
Headline:  Axis of Weasel

6)  Even those innocent-looking courthouse phone/window clerks may have been trained to try to get you to identify the driver!  Many have been instructed to refuse your request for a TBD or an arraignment or trial date, to tell you that if it was not you driving the car, you cannot have a TBD or arraignment or trial.  They insist that you must either fill-out and submit the affadavit, or contact the police.  Here's an example:
I went to the SF Hall of Justice today to request a trial (based on “It’s not me”). The clerk immediately asked me if I was driving, and when I said no she said, “You have to fill this out and tell who it was.” I told her I didn’t want to do that and that I wanted a trial. “You can’t have a trial unless you tell who it was,” which I knew wasn’t true. I said, “I believe I’m not obliged to say who it was, and I can have a trial.” She said, “They’re just gonna make you tell them at the trial,” and I said, “I believe I am not legally required to say.” After that she more or less threw a sheet at me and told me to pick a trial date.
7)  Most often, the pressure tactics and refusals described in # 6 above are verbal - but there are instances of written refusals.  In the Sacramento County court, motorists who wish to do a Trial by Declaration (TBD) are required to fill out a form admitting that they were the driver.  More info about that is in Set # 6 on the Sacramento Docs page.  In Los Angeles County, some motorists who have mailed in an "identity" TBD to the court have had everything sent back - including their check - along with a form letter saying:
We are returning your payment for the automated red light citation
listed above due to the following reason:
Enclosed is (your) check/money order

X  You have indicated that you were not driving the vehicle
at the time of the violation.

Please complete the "Affidavit of Non-Liability" form attached and
return to Automated Red Light Enforcement, P.O. Box 3997, Burbank
CA 91508-3997.
The citation will be re-issued to the person you have identified as the
driver of the vehicle at the time of the violation. The driver of the
vehicle will be instructed to submit payment for the re-issued citation
when he/she receives the citation in the mail. This process will ensure
proper bail posting and/or further citation disposition if required. The
citation will be cancelled and no further action is required by you.
Please fill out affidavit with the person driving the vehicle at the time
of the citation. Once this process is done the driver will receive a
ticket in his name with bail. Then he can pay or appear in court. To
get a copy of the picture you may contact the Red Light Enforcement
Agency at (866) 334-2156.
If you cannot identify the driver, please call (213) 742-1884 to set a
court date.

Thank you
[no signature or identifier of the clerk who generated the notice]

8)  Even some judges and their courtroom clerks will "twist your arm" to try to get you to identify the driver, either during your arraignment appearance, or sometimes even at your trial (Hawthorne).


If you encounter misdirection, false statements or arm-twisting when you phone or visit the court or its website,
please send me all available details.



Runaround by the court staff:

"I had success for a red light ticket issued by the _____ Police Dept. I happened not to be the driver of the car, so I ignored the advice of many police and court employees, and followed your advice to request a trial and plead the "not me" defense. My initial attempts to get the ticket dismissed by ticket issuing authorities failed. The driver was a female with blonde hair, I am a male with no hair. It was pretty obvious that I wasn't the violator, but the police continued to play hardball to get me to submit the name of the driver in the ticket picture. I kept pressing for a trial. It took multiple calls to multiple agencies before I began to get any information regarding a court trial. I kept getting the story that a trial wasn't an option and that I had to ID the driver to get out of the ticket. I eventually got the appropriate information, mailed in two requests for a court date, and submitted bail. On a follow up call two weeks after my second request for a court trial, I spoke to a supervisor in the courthouse. He forwarded my request to the police for review. I think he was hesitant to assign a trial date because he understood the futility of a trial. A few days after speaking to the courthouse supervisor, I received my bail check and a note indicating that the police had dismissed the ticket. Success thanks to you and your website."

If you encounter arm-twisting and/or false statements coming from a court clerk or a judge, please send me all available details!

I wrote back and asked this defendant what his ticket looked like, and he replied:
"The front of my red light ticket followed the official format - the court's address and phone number were supplied on the front of the ticket; however, the back of my ticket (highlighting added by highwayrobbery.net), which give instructions for handling the ticket, provided vague and misleading information. The instructions that I received from the ticket handling agency in Arizona, the police, and the Superior Court, was to either pay the ticket or provide the required information of the driver of the car in the picture. No additional options were mentioned to me. This was told to me by a minimum of eight different people. The cop at the PD was both loud and insistent on this point. I was told on several occasions by clerks at the Superior Court that they COULD NOT give me a court date unless I agreed to being the person pictured in the car. Here was their rationale:
' The purpose of a trial is to judge the guilt or innocence of the person driving the car. As I was not the person driving the car, I could not request a trial. Only the driver pictured in the ticket could request a trial. Please provide the name and CDL# of the driver and they can request a trial.'
Only after insisting to speak to a supervisor or the supervisor of the supervisor, was I given instructions for requesting a court date."

The editor of highwayrobbery.net phoned this same court, and got the same runaround.  With two different clerks!  And, looking at the back of the defendant's ticket, there were four prominent mentions of "complete the affidavit" (a.k.a. "Section D") and only one mention, in the smallest type size, of the availability of a court hearing.


( A request you could make at arraignment would be for your ticket to be moved to a different courthouse.  See Change of Venue on the Challenges page. )

Second Step, continued...

You could take your ticket with you to your arraignment and tell the judge, "Not guilty - identity" or, "Not guilty - wrong defendant."
Even though this verbal approach could end up being a waste of your time, here are details.

Saying only the correct words is important - a judge can't force you to identify who it is in the photo, unless you give up your right to not testify - by testifying.  So, you may want to avoid making statements that the judge might consider to be testimony, such as, "I was not driving the car," or even "It's not me!"  (Maybe I need to change the title of this section!)

If you know that it actually is you in the photo, you definitely can't say "It's not me!" as that would be perjury.  See FAQ # 21 on the Links page for more information about perjury.

As soon as he hears you question identity at arraignment, a good** judge will ask to look at your copy of the ticket (or he may ask the bailiff to look at it) - after all, all judges know that they're not supposed to send an obviously "wrong defendant" to a trial.  Then he may dismiss the ticket.

Here's an example of a good judge.

"I got whacked with a collection letter for almost $700. I called the collectors and found out I'd been charged with a camera violation. I called the cops and asked for the photo ticket that I never received (must have been mailed to my former address in another state). The officer e-mailed me the ticket. When I saw it, it was quite clear that my wife was the driver -- though the ticket was issued to me (as per my registration of course). The picture was clearly a female driver. My name is Ralph -- clearly a man's name. Anyhow, after reading through your site, I decided to go down to the police station and ask them to drop the charge. The officer there said, 'No problem, just gimme the name of the cupcake driving and I'll be happy to drop the charge against you.' Disgusted, I turned on my feet and walked out. To which the officer said quite threateningly, 'Good luck in court, pal.'
The arraignment date came, I saw the judge -- entered my plea of 'not guilty - identity.' He asked if the basis of my defense was that I wasn't the operator. I nodded. He asked if I had a copy of the ticket. I gave it to the bailiff, the bailiff gave it to the judge. He looked at it for a millisecond, and dismissed the case. Nice judge. BAD cop. It's like you said, a good judge doesn't wanna waste their or my time on a cr--shoot with no evidence."


Here's an example of a bad judge.  A clever bad judge.

"When the judge called my name, I plead not guilty and told the judge I was not the driver.  She looked up and asked for my ticket and my driver license.  After looking at it for a while, she said, 'It is too blurry, you might have to set up a trial.'  And then she said:  'Let me help you out here.  I’m not going to ask you who was the driver, but do you know who that person is?'   I did not know what to respond so I kept silent, she asked me twice and she got a little bit upset, saying that's OK, you don’t have to take the help from me, I’ll just put “not guilty” here and you can go ahead and pay your bail and set up a court trial.

A good** judge won't ask "Who is it?"  But if your judge does, remind him that you have pled "not guilty" and have not given up your right to not testify, and ask him (politely, "With all due respect...") to either dismiss the case, or set it for trial, or Trial by Declaration.  (If the judge refuses to dismiss the case, and you can't afford putting up the full fine amount as bail, then this would be the time to talk to him about reduced bail, or no bail.)

If you ended up pleading "not guilty," you will next need to see the courtroom clerk, who will give you papers documenting what your trial date will be and how and when you must pay the bail (if any).  This is supposed to be a straightforward and businesslike transaction, but if your judge is one of those who asks "Who is it?," you may encounter more of the same from the clerk!  The clerk may try to intimidate you into filling out the form disclosing who the driver was;  he may even say that you must fill it out.  If telling him that you know that you don't have to fill out the form doesn't stop the pressure, simply tell the clerk that you'd like to see the judge again, to verify what the clerk has told you.

If the arraignment judge said that he thought it might be your face in the photo, and you responded by asking for a trial, then in the days after the arraignment you may want to do a
Peremptory Challenge, so that you will have a different judge at the trial of your "It's Not Me!" ticket.

Second Step, continued...  More Info about Arraignment

**With an "It's not me!" ticket, the outcome depends upon the fairness of the judge.  If you would like to move your case away from a particular judge, or even totally away from the local courthouse, see Peremptory Challenge and Change of Venue, on the
Challenges page.

In the past, many arraignment judges had a computer terminal on their bench, giving them instant access (via the Internet) to the camera company's digital copies of ticket photos.  Before the arrival of these computers, when a defendant at arraignment told them "Not guilty - wrong defendant!" or "Not guilty - identity," the arraignment judges had to make their decision based upon looking at the face photo printed on the defendant's copy of the ticket.  Many of those photos were poorly printed and indistinct, so the judge often had to tell the defendant to plead "not guilty" and come back for a trial.
Now it is rare to see a judge do these computerized comparisons, because using the computer took an extra minute of the judges' time, and also made it much easier for It's Not Me defendants to get a dismissal "on the spot" without having to come back for a trial.


"It's Not Me!"  -  Third (Optional) Step (of four):  Do a Trial by Declaration ?

Trial by Declaration ("TBD") on an "It's not me!" ticket is suitable for either of these two situations:
(1)  The mismatch between you and the driver is very clear, and it is inconvenient for you to come in for a court appearance, or
(2)  You wish to exercise your right to have the question of identity considered multiple times - at arraignment, in a TBD, and possibly in a Trial de Novo.
Trial by Declaration is discussed at the end of the Handling Your Ticket section near the bottom of this web page, under the heading "TBD Situation # 3."


"It's Not Me!"  -  Fourth Step (of four):  Trial

If it is inconvenient for you to come to a court trial in person, don't make a trial date right away.  You could try a Trial by Declaration (above).

If you are going to a trial on an "It's not me!" ticket, you should read all of Defect # 1 on the Home page, and also the
Handling Your Ticket section, below.

"If there is any other advice to give readers please advise them
to park in a lot or a garage vs. at meters. I lost count of the number
of people I encountered who had to leave the courtroom to go feed their meter
and missed out on important information. Plus, the whole time they were stressing
about their meter instead of paying attention to what was happening in the courtroom."


Once you get to the courthouse for your trial, hang on tight!  The officer who is there representing the city knows that a police agency is not supposed to file charges against someone when there is strong evidence that someone else committed the crime - in other words, a lack of Probable Cause.  The officer also knows that if he does so, repeatedly, a judge may "call" him on it, as these judges did.

"Gender Mismatches"
"The most disturbing testimony at this hearing came from Officer Smalley who testified that even when he had a 95 percent belief that the individual in the photograph was not the registered owner because of a fairly obvious gender difference, he would issue the citation on the theory that he was not 100 percent certain. This procedure has been halted over the objection of Officer Smalley. The police now do not issue citations where there is an obvious gender discrepancy between the driver and registered owner. Further, the prosecution has moved to dismiss the gender mismatch cases pending in this court. Therefore, there is no need to analyze whether such a prior procedure constituted outrageous governmental conduct."

From Section III(B)(2) of Judge Ronald Styn's Aug. 15, 2001 order in People v. John Allen, the landmark case that closed-down San Diego's first red light camera system.

Another decision about the lack of Probable Cause is the 2014 decision in People v. Tho--.

The officer knows that he needs to avoid letting the trial go to the point where the judge sees the obvious mismatch between your face and the face in the photo on the ticket.  The officer's plan will be to wait for your case to be called, and then once you are walking forward, to quickly ask the court to dismiss the case.  But he also knows that the average defendant doesn't know about these problems, so in the minutes before the courtroom doors open and/or the judge comes in, the officer will try to bluff you into giving up, changing your plea to "guilty."  See the trial examples below, written by other defendants.  If that bluff doesn't work, then he (with the assistance of the court) will also try to "bribe" you into giving up:  Before the judge comes in, many bailiffs offer traffic school to everyone there who has not had it in the last 18 months.  They don't have to make that offer - once you plead "not guilty" the granting of traffic school is optional, at the judge's discretion - but it works to the court's advantage as it gets a lot of defendants to leave so that there's not so many cases to be heard.

At a trial, the judge can't force you to identify who it is in the photo, unless you give up your right to not testify - by testifying.  So, you may want to avoid testifying, or making statements that the judge might consider to be testimony, such as, "I was not driving the car," or even "It's not me!"

At a trial, the burden of proof is on the People, so the officer will talk first.  After the officer has shown his evidence to the judge and it is your turn to talk, you could make a motion by saying, "Your honor, are you sure it's me?"
Or, "Your honor, I request dismissal because the pictures do not show beyond a reasonable doubt that it was me driving the vehicle."
Or, even more formally, "I move to dismiss, on the grounds that the prosecution has not proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, the element of identification of the driver."
Or, "Your honor, would you convict a bank robbery suspect on such blurry photos?  This also is a criminal matter... the burden of proof is the same."

Whichever of the above wordings you decide to use, write it down ahead of time, and then when you get to court, read it to the judge  Don't ad lib !

If you want to be very sure that the judge understands that you are not testifying, you could tell the judge, before you make the motion above, that you don't intend to testify, that you plan to remain silent (except for making the motion).  Or, you could substitute the words "the defendant" or "this defendant" wherever "me" or "I" occurs in the motion.

If, despite all your precautions, the judge asks you if you were the driver, one or both of the following replies would be appropriate.
"Your honor, that's a factual determination for the court to make."
"Your honor, I'm exercising my right to remain silent."

If the judge claims that the wording you used ("Are you sure it's me," etc.) was testimony and that by saying those words you gave up your right to remain silent - and so won't stop asking you who the driver was - you could point out to him that the wording you used was identical to what a lawyer representing (a silent) you would have said if the pronouns "me" and "I" were changed into "my client," that you spoke those words while acting as your own lawyer, not as testimony - and that you retain your right to remain silent.  The judge should understand that what a lawyer says is not testimony.

I strongly recommend that you make a
request that your trial be recorded.  Otherwise, some judges will trample all over you.  It is best to make the request ahead of time, before the trial date.


Examples of "It's Not Me!" Trials

1.  This defendant had to take her (obvious) gender mismatch ticket all the way to a court trial.

"My boyfriend had been driving my car. It was NOT a Snitch Ticket. They had actually submitted it to the court under my name even though the driver was obviously a male. The officer either didn't care to check, or, more likely, thought I would cough up the name of the driver. Everyone associated with these red light cameras had always assured us that an officer of the law would review the picture and if the driver didn't match the owner of the car, they wouldn't ticket the owner. Liars.
So, having read highwayrobbery.net, I knew what to do. I went to the arraignment and pleaded, "NOT GUILTY, WRONG DEFENDANT." The judge didn't bother to review the evidence and arraigned me - THE WRONG DEFENDANT ! I always thought they had to arraign the accused. I was proven wrong.
Note: at the courthouse, everyone I talked to asked me if I wanted to "nominate" someone else as the driver. I always answered, "I am not going to testify." They never pressed for a name after I said that.
I showed up for trial. About 20 minutes before our scheduled court time a cop showed up and asked everyone there for a red light camera ticket to step over to him. He then called us one by one and offered to show us the infraction on video. I declined. That seemed to throw him off. Make a note: do NOT let the cops schmooze you.
Anyway, there were a lot of "gender mismatches." In the hallway, before the cop got to me, I witnessed another cop schmoozing another woman. She had obviously never visited highwayrobbery.net. They were trying to coerce her to give up the name of the driver. I don't know the resolution of her case...
[When it was my turn] the cop pointed to the blanked-off picture of the front seat passenger and asked, "Is that you?" I answered, "Yes." I don't recommend that, however. You could do the "I'm not going to testify" even here; even though this is outside of court and thus not testimony, it could be entered as "admission." I'm not sure that would hurt since you could still choose, once the trial started, to not testify. So they still couldn't force you to cough up the driver's name.
Next the cop pointed to the driver and asked, "Who is that?" I answered, "I am not going to testify." The cop said OK and directed me to enter the courtroom and wait till my name was called. Next, to the trial. The judge called my name. As I was walking up to the podium, the cop moved for dismissal based on "gender mismatch." The judge granted it, and I was out!"



2.  Here's a defendant who showed up for trial and was given the "Third Degree" by the police. The defendant's story points out how careful you have to be when being interviewed by (or negotiating with) the police.  (Remember, you can "dummy up" and refuse to tell the police who was driving your car - you could even tell them that you don't want to talk to them at all outside of trial - but it is illegal to give them false information or send them on a Wild Goose Chase.)

"I just got back from my trial appointment and my case was DISMISSED! I followed your advice to the letter, I held firm, it got a little heated and the officer had the audacity to claim I was making false statements. Here’s how it went down.
The line was ridiculous by the way. Before you see the trial judge they send you to see the video or photo in a different department. After waiting about half an hour, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Officer R. Wiggums, from the city's police department.
We sat.
OFFICER: Who’s that? (Pointing to person in photo, obviously not me.)
ME: I want to see a judge.
OFFICER: What’s going on?
ME: I want to see a judge.
OFFICER: Well, we need to get some information first. Tell me who’s in the photo.
ME: I already told you I want to see a judge.
OFFICER (serious now): Okay, let me tell you what’s gonna happen if you don’t tell me who it is. I’m gonna do a Lexis-Nexis search on your address and if I find out who it is, I’m gonna file charges against you for making false statements, filing a false report.
ME (angry): I didn’t make any false statements. I told you, “I want to see a judge.”
OFFICER: Are you telling me you don’t know who this is?
ME: I’m telling you “I want to see a judge.”
OFFICER: And what are you gonna tell the judge when he asks you who it is?
ME (angry): When the judge asks me, I’ll respond to the judge.
OFFICER: Okay relax, I’m just trying to straighten this out and help you out.
ME (angry): No, you’re not. You just threatened me.
OFFICER: I didn’t threaten you. I just told you what’s going to happen.
ME (angry): Well I consider saying I made false statements a threat. I’m here for trial, that’s what I’m here for!
OFFICER: Okay, I’m gonna dismiss your case, but you’ll be hearing from the D.A."



3.  Here's a case where the officer may have manipulated the evidence.

"My ticket was made out to me, a 55 year old male. The driver appeared to be a young female. I had read your site, but was not prepared for what happened at the trial.
Before the trial began, the officer showed me the photos and the video. At no time did I see the photo of the driver. I quietly asked the officer where the driver was, and he pointed to the blackened windshield which showed no driver. I said nothing else and waited for the officer to present the information to the judge.
I fully expected that the judge would ask for the photo identifying the accused. Incredibly, he did not. He turned to me and asked if I had any testimony. I replied that I did not, except for the fact that the officer did not present evidence that identified the driver. Instead of asking the officer to present the information, the judge asked me, "So are you saying that you are not the driver?" I sort of panicked and said "yes" while hoping that my answer would not be considered as testimony. At this point, he asked me for my license. This seemed like he was now helping the prosecution, but I gave it to the bailiff anyway. The judge then said he would look at his computer to see if the images were any clearer. I again said nothing while thinking that he should ONLY rely upon the evidence presented by the officer.
In the end, he found me not guilty due to me not being the driver. He then advised me that the officer may question me about who the other driver was and threw in more legal talk that seemed to include my Miranda rights. I sat for a minute, and received my paperwork as the officer approached to quietly question me before I left. I had seen this tactic before with other defendants, so I said nothing to him and walked toward the door. I heard him say that we could just talk out in the hall. Out in the hall he said, "So, who is the driver?" I turned to him and said, "That is information I am not going to provide." He just threw up his hands and left.
It occurred to me later that the officer chose not to print the photo of the driver, and edited the video so that it would also not identify the driver, which would have of course exonerated me."


"It's Not Me!" - Why You Don't have to ID the Driver

A judge can't force you to identify who it is in the photo, unless you give up your right to not testify.

On trial days, one judge (now retired) told the assembled defendants:

"There is one defense that I call the always-win-never-lose defense, pretty much an absolute defense in these tickets, and that defense is if you're not the driver of the vehicle.  Deputy Porche has two things that he has to prove to this court, by proof beyond a reasonable doubt this morning in each of your cases.  First, he must prove that a vehicle went through a red light.  Second, he must prove that you, the person cited, were the driver of the car.  The primary way that he proves that you were the driver is with the photograph or the photographs.  If the photographs are not photographs of you driving the car he has not met his burden of proof, you're 'not guilty,' end of case, we don't waste any time on those cases."
From: WeHo Trial Transcript


Here is an excerpt from a law review article, which says the same thing but in more formal terms:

"In every case, a registered owner will be acquitted if the prosecution does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the owner was driving.  [Footnote 48]  The existing 1995 law does not shift the burden of proof to the registered owner.  [Footnote 49]  The owner must simply proceed through the established procedures for contesting a traffic citation;  the burdens of production and persuasion remain with the State of California."

"Footnote 48:  See Cal. Penal Code Sec. 1096 (declaring that, in a criminal proceeding, the burden of proving the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is upon the state)..."
"Footnote 49:  See Cal. Vehicle Code Sec. 21455.5(c) (stating no requirement that the defendant bear any burden of proof in defending herself against a charge for violating California Vehicle Code Sec. 21453(a))."

From:  Stop! Photographic Enforcement of Red Lights, by Steven Tafoya Naumchik, McGeorge Law Review 1999, page 838 (Cite as:  30 McGeorge L. Rev. 833)


And here is the same message, in a "real life example."

A convenience store clerk is shot.  The police examine the bullets and match the lands and grooves to information they have on file about a gun owned by you.  The security tape shows that the robber was alone and the picture is clear enough so that anyone can see it's not you, but the police charge you with the shooting anyway and you are hauled into court.  Your lawyer tells the judge it's not you on the tape.  The judge looks at the tape, and agrees.  Should he immediately dismiss the case, or would it be OK for him to delay letting you go, and question you as to who the robber was?

Some people think it should be OK to delay - that a lot more crimes would be solved if such arm-twisting was legal.  But so far, it isn't.  No judge would dare try such a tactic with a defendant represented by a lawyer, but some judges can't resist doing it to "pro per" defendants in traffic court.

In some other countries this right - to refuse to identify who was driving - does not exist.  In England, if you refuse to identify the driver, they will double your demerit points!


If you are going to a trial on an "It's not me!" ticket, you should also read all of Defect # 1 on the Home page.


End of Section 2, "It's Not Me!"


(Fighting) Your Ticket Page:
- 3 -
Handling Your Ticket
( Including Tickets You Can Ignore, Collections & Delinquent Tickets, Traffic School, Reduced Fines, Plea Bargaining If Not Eligible for Traffic School, Trial, Trial by Declaration, Trial de Novo, Appeal )


Is the Ticket from a City in LA County, or from a Camera near the LA County MTA?

In June of 2011 we found out that the LA County Superior Court has not been reporting ignored tickets to the DMV!  For info about the option to ignore LA County red light camera tickets, go to Set # 2 on the LA County Documents page.


Is It a Snitch Ticket?

If someone sent you a "ticket" that does not give the address of the Court, or which says, "Do not contact the court," that's not really a ticket at all - so go to the section titled "Police Going Too Far...," above.


Did You Get Your Ticket Because Someone Snitched on You?
Or Did You Snitch on Yourself?

If you got your real ticket only after someone else (or you) received a fake ticket (Snitch Ticket) and replied to it, be sure to read Defect # 8 before you do anything further.


Was Someone Else Driving Your Car?

If it's not you in the picture but your name is on the ticket, and it's not a Snitch Ticket, go to the section titled "It's Not Me," above.


Have You Been to Traffic Court on a Previous Ticket?

If you have never been to traffic court before, you might want to read this article about it, to get the "feel" of what traffic court is like.


Is Your Ticket "In Collection" or Seriously Delinquent?


If so, please read the information in this box.

Tickets in Collection or Seriously Delinquent

(If the ticket is from a location inside LA County (a city, or the MTA, or the LA County Sheriff), you may have the option to ignore the collection!)

Many defendants never received their original ticket in the mail - or ignored it.  If your case is "in collection" (you got a nasty letter from a collection agency) and you no longer wish to ignore it, get a copy of the original ticket (from the police, the collection agency, or from the courthouse).  If you see that the original ticket was mailed to a totally incorrect address due to an error by the issuing agency, the service of the ticket could be defective and you may be able to make your ticket go away by "demurring" to it. For more info about demurring, see Defect # 8, Expanded.

From Jan. 1 to June 30, 2012 there was a statewide partial amnesty (50% off) for tickets that were due by Jan. 1, 2009 or before.  The amnesty was available in every county in the State.  The LA County Superior Court issued a press release about the amnesty.  To read the amnesty legislation, go to Section 38 of Senate Bill 857 of 2010, and also read Assembly Bill 1358 of 2011.  The State still needs the money, so maybe the legislators who created this now-expired amnesty will create a new one.  You could ask them to do it.

If you weren't eligible for the amnesty or missed it, and the original mailing of your ticket was to a "good" address for you (maybe it got thrown out with the junk mail, or you ignored it), you can still go to court, see the judge, and get the amount reduced by a lot.  You should not have to pay the collection in order to get a court date (an "arraignment").  Here's one defendant's story.

"I contacted the collection agency and they gave me new court date and didn't ask for any money. I refused to give them any information on my address, etc. Strange function for a collection agency, to set up court dates. On their records it showed that I had gone to court once already. I haven't. What a mess these court records must be. Anyway, I have to go to the Court in July. I will contact the police and ask for a copy of the ticket. I didn't know I could do that. Also, I checked with the DMV and I don't have a hold on my license and the collection agency told me that there is no warrant out for me--whew! Here's hoping that the picture is completely blurred or they dismiss the case."
Some months later the same defendant wrote: "I had court today. Paid the ticket [pled 'nolo contendere'] and was able to get the $300 for not showing up last time removed. Not a total victory but I'm happy. I have used a P.O. box forever and have that address on my license, registration and car title, but for some reason the police decided to access my physical address from the DMV and use it. According to the DMV, that isn't supposed to be done unless it is an emergency or criminal matter. I don't feel that the original traffic violation was a criminal matter but who's to say. The judge didn't seem to know or care one way or another. He was waiving the failure to appear charge for most people."

(There's another defendant's "collection story" in Step 2 of the It's Not Me! section, above.)

If the collection notice says that you have to call the collection agency in order to get a court date - and on the phone the collection agent tells you that you have to pay the collection or you can't have a court date - get the name of the agent, then call the court and complain.  Again: You should not have to pay in order to get a court date.

I have talked with many camera defendants who were in the "Collections" line at the courthouse.  They break-down into two categories.  Some have a collection for about $800 and a driver's license suspension for failure to appear ("FTA").  The others have a collection for about $600, no suspension, no FTA.  The people with the larger $$ amount and the suspension told me that right after they first received their ticket they had contacted the court, to get information or to take an extension.  By doing so they acknowledged that they had received the ticket.  The people with the smaller $$ amount and no suspension had not acknowledged receiving the ticket - because they genuinely hadn't received it due to mail being misdelivered, not forwarded, or stolen.

When you appear before the judge, he will wipe out all of the collection fees.  But if you had an FTA, he will charge you approx. $100 in "court costs."

If you want to fight it, not just give up and pay the money, have a look at Defect # 8 on the Home page, this Arizona appellate court decision (Arizona), and Penal Code Sec. 1214.1

If the ticket is from a location (a city, or the MTA) inside LA County, you may have the option to ignore the collection!

If you live outside of California and are thinking about ignoring the collection, see FAQ # 39.



Dealing With It

If you don't want the worry of deliberately ignoring the ticket (who does? - unless it's a Snitch Ticket), please continue reading.



What's Your Late Time ?

Late Time is how long the signal already had been red (actually, how long power had been applied to the red light bulb) when your picture was taken.  If you cannot find the Late Time figure on your ticket, or it is illegible, see Defect # 5 and the How to Read Your Late Time box in Defect # 7.



Beating It on a Technicality

Technicalities having to do with late mailing of the ticket, improper proof of service, or an incomplete ticket, are described in Defect # 8 on the Home page.  Examine your ticket carefully!

Another technicality:  The contract - between the city and the company supplying the cameras - may be illegal.  State law says the city shall not pay the camera supplier on the basis of the number of tickets issued, or as a percentage of the revenue coming to the city from the court.  Despite that law, many cities have agreed to do so.  See Defect # 10 - B for more information.

And one more technicality:  One experienced defendant recommends that you immediately file an extensive
Discovery (to which the City must reply within 15 days), refuse to waive your right to a trial within 45 days ("speedy trial" - also see FAQ # 28) and, when the City has not complied with the Discovery request, go to court and ask for dismissal of the case.  He admits that it does not work all the time in the lower (traffic) court, but will guarantee your conviction being overturned on appeal.


Change of Venue

Moving your ticket to a different judge, or a different courthouse, may be to your advantage.  See the
Challenges page.


Confusing Terminology

If you're not sure what an extension to a "respond to" date is, and what the difference is between an arraignment and a trial, please read the info in this box.


Often-Misunderstood / Confused Courthouse Terminology

The Three Steps:  "Respond to..."
and Arraignment and Trial


1.  "Respond to..."

The first step.  Except in LA County where you may have the option to ignore the ticket, you must do something on or before the "respond to the court" date printed on your ticket.  See details, below.

2.  Arraignment
The next required step.

3.  Trial
The last step, which is optional.


The Details

"Respond to..."

Your ticket should say, "You must respond to the court on or before ________ ."  That's part of the official format, so if your ticket doesn't have such a statement, it could be a fake ticket; see the Police Going Too Far... section, above.  If the ticket is real, you will need to take one of the following actions by that "respond to" date (or any extension of it) - unless the ticket is from a city or agency located in LA County.  (You may have the option to ignore an LA County ticket.)

1.   Put it off:  If you need time to think, or to contact the police, or to get the fine money together, you can ask the court clerks for an extension; depending upon what county you are in, they will add 30 to 60 days to the "respond to" date.  In most counties, you can obtain your extension at the website for that county's Superior Court.  Or, you can do it by phone, by mail, or by going to the courthouse.  (If you make your extension request over the phone, make a note of the name of the clerk you talked to, and the date and time you called.)  When that extension is about up you will have to make a decision:  If you want to do a Trial by Declaration, you will need to ask for it (and pay the bail) before the extension runs out.  (See "The Deadline to Request a TBD," in the TBD section at the big green heading, way below.)  If you don't want to do a TBD, you could wait 'til the extension is about up, then call the court and set up an arraignment date, which will be 2 to 10 weeks (or much more) away.  Or, if your court offers it, you could go to a "walk-in" arraignment (no appointment necessary).  Before you do your arraignment, you will need to decide whether to pay the ticket (see the paragraph below), or fight it at a "live" trial (see the Trial section, in this box).
2.   Arraign yourself, or schedule a date for an arraignment in front of a judge, or set up a TBD:  In California, traffic tickets are a criminal matter (the least serious kind, an infraction), so are handled somewhat like the more serious crimes.  First there is an arraignment, and then, if you want to fight the ticket, there is a trial.  (Usually on a separate date, although some counties push to combine arraignment and trial.)
3.   Pay it:  If you don't want to fight your ticket - you just want to pay it and get traffic school (assuming you're eligible for regular traffic school and have all the money together - or a credit card) - you can enter your plea of "guilty" and also pay the fine, both in the same visit to the clerk's window.  Or, you could do it by mail, phone, or even possibly on the Superior Court's website - you can avoid visiting the courthouse even once!  But there is a possible disadvantage of not going to court:  Some judges reduce the fine on certain tickets, such as rolling rights, or those with a short Late Time!

Arraignment

The basic purpose of arraignment is for you to enter a plea of "guilty" or "not guilty."  If you're pleading "guilty," you will also make arrangements to pay the fine.  If you're pleading "not guilty," you will set a date for the trial, and make arrangements to put up the bail.  With a serious crime, arraignment is always in front of a judge; but for your infraction, you may have the option to arraign yourself at the clerks' window, by mail, on the phone, in front of a judge, or even possibly on the Superior Court's website.  One form of "not guilty" arraignment is to request a Trial by Declaration ("TBD").  If you want to do a TBD, you will need to request it by the "respond to" date, or by the extended "respond to" date.  (See "The Deadline to Request a TBD," in the TBD section at the big green heading, way below.).

Arraignment in Front of a Judge

You don't have to do your arraignment in front of a judge (see above), but here are some good reasons to do so.  (You do not have to pay any money, or any "collection," in order to obtain an arraignment date in front of a judge - even if your ticket is in collection.)

1.  You're planning to plead "guilty" - which by itself does not require an appearance before a judge - but you want to plea bargain, see if the judge will reduce the fine, give you Community Service, or extra time to pay.
2.  You're not eligible for traffic school, and you want to plea bargain - ask the judge if he will change the charge from CVC 21453 to some other section not carrying a point - in exchange for your guilty plea.   (Read the pink-ish Alternatives box, below, for more info.)
3.  You want to tell the judge that it was not you driving the car and get the ticket dismissed.  For a discussion of what not to say to the judge if it wasn't you, see the Second Step of the "It's Not Me!" section, above.  Please also note that most judges are unwilling to decide identity issues at arraignment and will suggest that you plead "not guilty" and go to trial - especially if the person pictured looks similar to you.
4.  You want to get rid of collection fees or a "failure to appear."
5.  You're planning to plead "not guilty" and set up a trial date (things you could do by mail), but want to ask the judge for extra time to put up the bail, or for "OR" (no bail).  (Most judges are reluctant to grant "OR" - instead, they offer extra time to come up with the bail.)  Warning:  If you enter your "not guilty" plea by mail, or with a window clerk - not in front of a judge - you may be giving up your right to a speedy trial.  See FAQ # 28.
6.  You want to tell the judge about the city's failure to respond to your Discovery request.
7.  You want to make a request for Change of Venue (moves the case to another courthouse).
8.  You have mailed-in a Peremptory Challenge, but there has been no response from the court.
9.  You plan to file a demurrer (per Defect # 8 - A).
10.  Your arraignment appearance could be an extra opportunity to set up a Trial by Declaration ("TBD") - See "The Deadline to Request a TBD," in the TBD section at the big green heading, way below.)

An arraignment session is NOT:
It's not a trial, so the officer who issued your ticket will not be present.  As a result, you will not be allowed to argue your case, except for (possibly) the issue of identity.

Trial
or
Trial by Declaration ("TBD")

If you've decided you want a trial, you have a choice of a "live" trial, or a Trial by Declaration.

To set up a "live" trial you plead "not guilty" and make bail arrangements.  If you have the full bail amount available, you can enter your plea by phone or by mail so long as you act at least 5 days before your "respond to" date or any arraignment date you've set, whichever is later.  Otherwise, you can do it in person.  If you can't pull together the full bail, you can go to an in-court arraignment, enter your plea, and ask for "OR."  (Most judges are reluctant to grant "OR" - instead, they offer extra time to come up with the bail.)
At your trial there will be a representative from the police department that issued your ticket.  (It doesn't have to be the same person who signed your ticket.  See FAQ # 36.)  The trial will be your opportunity to question the officer, or ask the judge if he thinks the blurry or similar-looking person pictured on the ticket really is you.  At the trial you can still do some of the things you can do at an arraignment.  For instance, even if the judge has just found you "guilty," you can still ask for traffic school, Community Service, a reduced fine, or extra time to pay.  (You may or may not be granted traffic school, etc. - at a trial the granting of such things is at the judge's discretion.)

A TBD - Trial by Declaration - can be done without making any visits to the courthouse.  If you want to schedule a TBD, you will need to make your request by the "respond to" date or extended "respond to" date.  For more info, see the TBD section at the big green heading, way below.


Please first read the What's Hot box on the Home page, and on the Camera Towns page, the information about "your" town.


Is It a Snitch Ticket?

If someone sent you a "ticket" that does not give the address of the Court, or which says, "Do not contact the court," that's not really a ticket at all - so go to the section titled "Police Going Too Far...," above.


Be Very Skeptical of Anything Court Personnel Tell You:

Index to Lies/Disinformation Coming from the Authorities

Baloney!
1)  If the Court's address and phone number are not on the ticket, the ticket may not be real! - Have a look at the "Police Going Too Far..." section, at the top of this page.

2)  If you've been told you can't do discovery on a traffic ticket, see the Getting Records/Discovery page.

3)  If you've been told you cannot tape your trial, see the Get Your Trial Recorded page.

4)  If you are not the driver pictured on the ticket, see the purple Sneaky Lies box in the It's Not Me! section, above.

5)  If you are planning to do a Trial by Declaration ("TBD"), see the purple Doing a TBD?  Watch Out for This! box in the TBD section, below.



Step 1:  Extensions, Discovery, Traffic School, Preparation

Extensions & Discovery

If you just got a red light camera ticket, don't plead "guilty" right away, even if they'll let you go to traffic school.  In most counties you are eligible for an extension, no questions asked, and you won't be asked to post the bail or enter a plea.   The extension can be up to 60 days, and it will be added to the "respond to the court" date printed on the ticket.  (If your ticket doesn't say "respond to the court," it could be a fake ticket; see the Police Going Too Far... section, above.)

In order to get an extension, you have to contact the court, and that contact acknowledges that you received the ticket - with a downside:  If the ticket is from a city or agency inside LA County, you lose your
option to ignore the ticket and will get a Failure to Appear ("FTA") charge if you do not take care of the ticket by the extended due date.

There's several ways to request an extension.
a)  You may be able to request the extension over the Internet, by going to the website of the Superior Court of the county in which your ticket was issued.  If the court's website address is not listed on your ticket, you can get it
here.
b)  Call the court's phone number, which is listed on the ticket.  (If you make your extension request over the phone, make a note of the name of the clerk who you talked to, and the date and time you talked.  And, when you are talking to that "live" court clerk, find out what day of the week and time - morning or afternoon - the "not guilty" trials are held.  The information may come in handy later.)
c)  If it is at least five business days before your "respond to" date, you could request your extension by mail - but be sure to use Certified Mail, with a Return Receipt.
d)  Go to the courthouse and see the window clerks.  If you are going to the courthouse, you may want to schedule your visit at a time that court is in session, so you can go watch the judge in action.  See the "About Your Judge" box, below.

Once you have your extension, use the extra time to do the research indicated in Step 2 below.  If you are going to fight the ticket and want a preview of the documents and photos/video the City will present at the trial, do a Discovery without delay.  I strongly recommend doing so.  Details about Discovery are at:
Getting Records/Discovery.


Traffic School, Commercial Licenses, Alternate Pleas To Avoid a Point, Reduced Fines, Payment Plans

If you have a commercial license and your violation occurred while you were driving a commercial vehicle, or if you attended traffic school for a previous violation that occurred less than 18 months before the date of your red light camera violation (the interval is measured between the dates the violations occurred, not between dates of conviction), you're probably not eligible for traffic school - So read the "Alternatives" info in the big box, below.


Alternatives:
Traffic School
Commercial Licenses
Alternate Pleas to Avoid a Point
Second Offender Traffic School ("2TS")


If you do not have a commerical license and you are not eligible for traffic school because of the required 18-month spacing or because you live outside California, there is an alternative.  You could plea bargain - ask the prosecutor (usually the police) or the judge if they will allow you to plead guilty to CVC 21710, "Coasting," which does not carry a point.  Or CVC 38300.
Or a violation of some section of the local municipal code.

If you have a commercial license and your violation occurred while you were driving a non-commercial vehicle, a new law (CVC 42005) effective Jan. 1, 2013 allows you to attend traffic school!

If you have a commercial license and your violation occurred while you were driving a commercial vehicle, you're probably not eligible for traffic school, but you could try plea bargaining, described above.

If you do not have a commerical license and your violation occurred before Jul. 1, 2011 and you're not eligible for traffic school because of the 18-month rule, you might still be eligible for "Second Offender" (12-hour) traffic school ("2TS"). 

Second Offender Traffic School ("2TS")

(2TS is not available for violations dated Jul. 1, 2011 or later.)

The window clerks at the courthouse cannot grant 2TS to you - you have to ask a judge, and it is at his discretion.  Many judges freely grant 2TS, but some don't.   (See the Editorial about traffic school, on the Links page.)  One way to find out whether your judge grants 2TS is to go observe some traffic arraignments in his courtroom.  Or, if "your" city has its own section on the Camera Towns page, check there for information about the judge.

If your primary goal is to keep a point off your record, you could get yourself up to four opportunities to ask for 2TS.  (But be sure to read the "Caution" below.)

1.  At an arraignment.
2.  In a Trial by Declaration ("TBD").
3.  At the beginning of a trial or of a Trial de Novo.
4.  At the end of a trial or of a Trial de Novo.

At the arraignment, ask the judge there if you can have 2TS.  (Note that in this situation, the timing of your arraignment could be important - see "The Deadline..." in the TBD section, below.)  If the arraignment judge says no, then tell him you plead "not guilty" - and that you want to do a trial.  If your trial gets assigned to the same judge who denied 2TS to you at arraignment, you may want to do a Peremptory Challenge so that you will have a different judge.

If you are doing a TBD, include a request for 2TS.  If you lose the TBD and the judge does not grant your request for 2TS, then request a Trial de Novo - which might be in front of a different judge.

At trials, the first thing most judges do is to look at the face photo and decide whether they think it's you.  If he decides it is you, you could then ask for 2TS right after that.  If he says no to your request, then you should go ahead and argue the rest of your case.  If you are then found "guilty," ask for 2TS again.

Caution:
2TS Could be Worse for You Than No Traffic School at All

(2TS is not available for violations dated Jul. 1, 2011 or later.)

2TS keeps the point off your DMV record, just like regular 8-hour TS does.  The difference between 2TS and regular TS is that regular TS doesn't show on your public record at all (the public record is the one your insurance company checks), while 2TS shows as "traffic school."  The DMV doesn't write "second offender" or "12-hour" in front of the "traffic school" notation, but insurance companies are smart enough to know that if it says "traffic school" at all, that notation represents an attendance at 2TS.  They will also realize that you have had two recent tickets, even though only one will be showing.  Most insurance companies only care about points (which you won't have) and won't raise your rates just because you attended 2TS.  But I do have relatively reliable information that two major companies may raise rates because of attendance at 2TS.  You should check for yourself, with your agent - hypothetically, or anonymously - before you ask for 2TS. 

2TS is not available for violations dated Jul. 1, 2011 or later.



For the official rules about traffic school, and some case law, follow the links at the bottom of the Editorial in Section 5 of the Links page.



Most judges offer some kind of time-payment plan to defendants who plead "guilty," to allow you a couple extra months to pay.  There is a finance fee for that privilege, but it is included in the traffic school fee.  If you want to combine time to pay and traffic school, you will need to finish all payments within 90 days, per CVC 42007(a)(2).

From a reader:

"Perhaps you could make a suggestion to people that when they pay their fine or their bail, that they write in the 'memo' area of the check a much-needed purchase like "new tires," "car insurance," "health insurance," "college tuition," "mortgage payment," or "children's school clothing." You get the idea.  Force the employees administering this beast to live with the personal individual carnage every day at work."


Often-Misunderstood Courthouse Terminology***

"Suspended sentence"


Sometimes a judge will offer to "suspend your sentence."  That means that you will not have to pay the fine - but he or she is still finding you "guilty" and you will have a point on your record unless you go to traffic school.

***This is not the "big green" Terminology box!  Scroll up for it.


If you want to get away from a particular judge because he doesn't reduce fines, give a reasonable amount of time to pay, doesn't allow Community Service, or for any other reason, you can file a Challenge, under Code of Civil Procedures 170.3 or 170.6, to get another judge.  If your Challenge is successful and your judge was the only traffic judge in the courthouse, your case likely will be moved to another courthouse.  If you have pled "not guilty," that extra distance will improve the odds that the officer will not show up for your trial.  See:  Challenges.
But there is a deadline for filing a Challenge, and if it is now too late for you to file one, pleading "not guilty" is still a good idea - maybe the judge you don't want will be on vacation on your trial date, and the substitute judge will grant you the reduced fine, or payment plan that you need.


About Your Judge

Checking Him Out in Advance

If you don't know what "your" judge is like - does he reduce fines, does he grant Community Service, etc. - and don't want to wait 'til your arraignment (or trial) date to find out, you could go observe one of his court sessions.  I recommend, however, that you leave the courtroom before the last case is called.  Why?  If the judge has just called the last case on his list and he notices one more person (you) still sitting in the "pews," he will ask you, "Do you have a case scheduled today?"  You will have to explain that you are "just observing" - and he will end up remembering you.

Judge, Commissioner, or Pro Tem?

I recommend that you move your case away from any judge or commissioner who handles a lot of red light camera cases.

And, I strongly recommend that you not allow your case to be heard by any Pro Tem.  A Pro Tem is an attorney acting as a temporary judge, and you can simply refuse to have your case heard by one.  You have the right to have your case heard by a commissioner, or a judge - unless you waive that right!  If there is a Pro Tem on the bench, the courtroom personnel will ask you to sign a waiver (often it will be on a clipboard passed around the courtroom), and you can refuse to sign.  You don't have to use up your one Peremptory Challenge to do so, either.

It may be to your advantage to have your case heard by a real judge.  If your case is scheduled to be heard by a commissioner and all the other courtrooms in the courthouse are presided over by judges, you may want to file a Peremptory Challenge ("PC"), so that your case might be moved to one of the judges.  You won't always get a judge, though, as they could instead move your case to another commissioner in another court building nearby in the county.

Taking His Picture

highwayrobbery.net would like to post photos or drawings of all active traffic court judges and commissioners.  However, photos are hard to obtain, and we cannot use a camera in the courtroom.  If you're artistic, please do a drawing of your judge and submit it for publication here.


Preparing for Trial - and More about Traffic School

If you want to go to trial, you will need to plead "not guilty" and arrange for bail.  If you do not have the money, you will need to appear before a judge and ask for release on your "own recognizance" - abbreviated "OR" .  (Most judges are reluctant to grant "OR" - instead, they offer extra time to come up with the bail.) If you have the cash (or can put it on plastic) you can put up bail by mail or even on the phone.  (Warning: By bypassing an arraignment in front of a judge you may be giving up your "right to a speedy trial."  See FAQ # 28.)

If you want a preview of the documents and photos/video the City will present at the trial, file for Discovery (and issue any subpoenas for other documents) without delay.  (If possible, file for Discovery well before your arraignment date.)  Details about Discovery and subpoenas are at: 
Getting Records/Discovery.   Later, if the City has not supplied the Discovery materials you asked for, take the action recommended in Fight Your Ticket.   Request an extension if necessary.  Use the extra time to do the research indicated in Step 2 below.  (If you obtain your extension via a phone call to the court, make a note of the name of the clerk who you talked to, and the date and time you called.)

Defendants who go to trial and lose can still ask for traffic school (either kind), although the granting of it after you've pled "not guilty" is at the discretion of the judge.  If you receive reliable information that your judge hardly ever grants traffic school to those who lose at trial, consider doing a Peremptory Challenge.  Or, if after you asked for a trial you got a "Trial Date" letter or a "Notice of Trial After Written Plea" containing a statement similar to this one formerly found in notices from the Long Beach courts,


(Don't panic - it isn't true! - Editor)

you should file a Peremptory Challenge.  Be prepared to do the same if sometime during the trial session the judge announces a general policy of "no traffic school after trial."  And if it is too late to file a PC, you could try a Challenge for Cause - the prejudice being that by pre-determining your penalty, the court has pre-judged your case.  See:  Challenges.
If it was the bailiff, or (earlier) a phone attendant at the clerk's office who said, "no school after trial," ask your trial judge if it is true.
Further reading about traffic school is in the
Editorial on the Links page, the materials linked at the end of it, and the traffic school info in Step 3, below.

I strongly recommend that you make a request that your trial be recorded.  Otherwise, some judges will trample all over you.  It is best to make the request ahead of time, before the trial date.

If you have filed a Discovery request, doing so obliges you to discover your materials to the prosecution prior to trial.


Trial by Declaration

See the TBD section, at the big green heading below.


Step 2:  Investigation

Step 2:  Defects # 2, 4 through 8, and 10, are the focus here as they are the least subjective defects.  Either the signal had enough yellow time in compliance with Section 21455.7, or it didn't;  either the warning signs were big enough and posted in the required places, or they weren't;   either the red light is visible in the ticket photo, or it isn't;  either the City issued warning tickets for 30 days when they started your camera, or they didn't;  either the ticket was mailed on time and with proper proof of service, or it wasn't;  either the City (not the camera company) wrote up guidelines (and by the appropriate date), or they didn't; either (a non-grandfathered) city pays its vendor a totally flat rate, or it doesn't.

To find out if the intersection you were ticketed at has enough yellow, look up the legal minimum in the Yellow Change Interval table (see Defect # 2 on the Home Page).  Compare that with the amount the signal actually has.  The box below tells you how to determine that actual amount, and document it.


Step 2 (cont'd):  Measuring the Yellow - Some Methods

Method 1:  The Fastest - It Might Be on Your Ticket!


Some cities imprint the length of the yellow right on the ticket, sometimes in the very small print along the top border of the photos.

[Important Note:   While the ACS camera system used in many cities, such as West Hollywood, actually imprints the programmed yellow time in a black box right on the ticket photos, that figure may not represent, as we had been led to believe, the actual length of the yellow you would see while driving - as we found at Whittier / Atlantic in East LA.  (See the East LA section of the Camera Towns page, and Defect # 5 on the Home page.)]


Method 2:   Requires a Visit to the Intersection and a Stopwatch and/or Camcorder


A.  Go to the intersection with a video camera and a stopwatch.  Measure the yellow with the stopwatch, several times. Stopwatches aren't very accurate, but if the stopwatch reads more than (approx.) 0.4 seconds above the required minimum and about the same as the yellow imprinted on your ticket (if the ticket is from a camera type that imprints the yellow), the yellow length is probably OK.

B.  Next, if the stopwatch time is less than 0.4 above the minimum, make a videotape of the signal (or a 30-frames-per-second video using a high-end digital still camera*), then play the video a frame at a time and count the number of frames that the yellow is lit (stop counting when you see the red begin to come on, even if the yellow still is glowing slightly).  Divide by 30 to get the number of seconds (or by 15, 16.4 or 30, whichever is the frame rate of your still camera).  If the result, rounded down to tenths, is equal to or greater than the required minimum and not greater than the yellow imprinted on your ticket (if any), the yellow interval is probably OK.  But if your result is less than the required minimum, or greater than the yellow imprinted on your ticket (if any), you may have found an illegal camera.  Keep the tape.  Get someone else to make a back-up tape of the signal, with another camera.  Or call the local TV news.

*
A video camera, because of its frame rate of 30 frames per second, will give you a more accurate measurement than will a digital still camera or a cellphone camera, which may have a frame rate of half that.


Method 3:  Get the Violation Video and Count the Frames


If your ticket was from a camera that takes a 12-second long video of each violation, you may be able to measure the yellow by counting frames on that video - similar to the method immediately above.

Sometimes the copy of that video available at the camera company's website is one that has been cut down to 15 frames per second, to save bandwidth on the site.  In that case, to get a look at the full 30-frame original you may need to file for Discovery - see the
Getting Records/Discovery page.  Once you have the video, use a program such as Windows Movie Maker to play it.

If you are trying to save one of the photos from the camera company's website, and the website will not allow you to save it, you can hit your "Print Screen" button (upper right corner of keyboard), which will grab a copy of your entire screen!  Then just go to your favorite "paint" program and paste-in the saved screen image by hitting Ctrl-V.


Step 2 (cont'd):  Length of Yellow

If you have checked the length of the yellow and it appears to be shorter than the length required for the posted speed, get a certified copy of the signal timing chart for "your" intersection - or call the local TV news people.  

Or, if the yellow appears to be long enough for the posted speed but you intend to argue Defect # 3 because there is a big difference between the 85th Percentile speed and the posted speed limit, get two things:  (1) A certified copy of the speed survey for "your" street and (2), ask me to send you a copy of my appeal briefs.  

Details about making requests for city documents are at:  Getting Records/Discovery.


Step 2 (cont'd):  Are Warning Signs OK?

Until Jan. 1, 2013, cities had to post warning signs facing all four directions of traffic at camera-enforced intersections - even if the cameras were monitoring just one or two directions - or they could post signs at all major entrances to town.  Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, there must be a warning sign at each camera, and it's no longer an option to post the entrances to town.  The warning signs must measure at least 42" top-to-bottom.  If they are less than that, or obscured by trees or parked vehicles, or of a non-standard design (see Defect # 4 on Home page), take pictures or video to document the situation.  Be sure to document the date.


Step 3:  The Not-Guilty Trial:  Defenses, and More about Traffic School

The following advice is about a live "not guilty" trial.

I strongly recommend that in advance of your trial date you make a
request that your trial be recorded.  Otherwise, some judges will trample all over you.

Show up at court!  Many cases are dismissed at the trial session, because of bad photos or other technical problems.  Or sometimes because the officer didn't show up.  But those dismissals don't apply to defendants who don't show up.

"If there is any other advice to give readers please advise them
to park in a lot or a garage vs. at meters. I lost count of the number
of people I encountered who had to leave the courtroom to go feed their meter
and missed out on important information. Plus, the whole time they were stressing
about their meter instead of paying attention to what was happening in the courtroom."


Once you get to the courthouse, hang on tight!  Sometimes the police have lost or garbled the electronic evidence.  Or, the camera company didn't send the data disk on time.  Or, their laptop is broken.  Or, often, they realize that the face photo is not of the quality required by the judge who will be trying the cases.  A lot of things can go wrong!  The officer knows that once the case is called, he's going to have to ask the court to dismiss it.  He also knows that you don't know about the problem, so in the minutes leading up to the trial he may contact you and try to bluff you into giving up, changing your plea to "guilty."  He might contact you while you still are sitting in the hallway, or he may wait until you are seated in the courtroom.  He (with the court's assistance) may try to "bribe" you into giving up:  Before the judge comes in, many bailiffs offer traffic school to everyone there who has not had it in the last 18 months.  They don't have to make that offer - once you plead "not guilty," the granting of traffic school is optional, at the judge's discretion - but this plea bargaining works to the court's advantage (it promotes "judicial economy") by getting a lot of defendants to leave so that there's not so many cases to be heard.  If you don't take the bailiff up on his offer, and go ahead and argue your case, are found "guilty," and then ask for traffic school, your chances of getting it are much lower.  Post-conviction, some judges don't give it at all, because they can see that granting it would just encourage more defendants to argue their cases.

Sometimes you just have to hang on for the ride!  This defendant did...

I wanted to let you know what happened in court.
I got there along with about 75 other people. I suppose these camera courts are more crowded because they're only held once a week, whereas the non-camera traffic infractions are held throughout the week.
The bailiff asked, "All those here for tickets in the City of ______ raise your hands." About half the people raised their hands. Then he did the same for [another town that's also served by the same court], and a number of people raised their hands.
Then a police officer comes up to me and says my name. I get up and approach him and ask, "How did you know who I was?" He said, "Your photo is on the ticket." I said, "Oh!" He asked if I wanted to view the video. I said, "Nah, I saw it." He showed me the ticket and asked if that was my photograph. I thought for a moment and said, "I don't have to tell you that." He said, "No you don't."
Then he went away briefly and came back with a piece of paper. He said, "I can read this at trial, or if you wish you can read it over now and sign it." I go sit down and read it. It's a brief list of the codes [that the town that ticketed me] followed in setting up their camera system. I realized it's not a legal document, he didn't sign it at all, let alone with a declaration of perjury, and direct knowledge that the items listed were true and correct, so I knew I could actually use that paper against him at trial. He never came back for it, and after about 45 minutes total sitting in the courtroom, the bailiff called my name, handed me a piece of paper and told me my case was dismissed.




Step 3:  The Not-Guilty Trial (cont'd)

(To be prepared in case the bailiff or the judge makes a general announcement that there is "no traffic school after trial," please read the traffic school
Editorial on the Links page, the materials linked at the end of it, and the traffic school info in the Preparing for Trial section, above.)

This is Not Your Typical Traffic Court Trial

In the typical traffic court trial - let's say you were pulled over for speeding - the judge will call your name, then you and the officer who pulled you over will come to the table in front of the judge, and the case will proceed:  You would make any pre-trial motions you might have and then, if your motions have not stopped or delayed the trial, the officer will testify (he testifies first because the burden is on him to prove your guilt), and then it will be your turn to cross-examine him and/or to testify.



Briefly...

The typical camera ticket trial day involves multiple defendants - it could be as many as 50 - all charged with the same violation, so is handled in a mass production fashion, to promote "judicial economy."  When it is time for the camera cases to be heard, the judge will announce that the officer will testify, just once, to provide the "foundational" testimony common to all the red light camera cases.  (More about foundation below.)  After that, the judge will begin going through the individual cases, with the officer testifying first, giving the date and time of the violation and showing the photos and video.  Then it is the individual defendant's chance to cross-examine him and/or testify.  And then the next case, and the next.

In Detail...

The moment the officer begins to present the individual case on your ticket is your last opportunity to make pre-trial motions such as a Peremptory Challenge (if you haven't filed it earlier - check the deadlines given on the Challenges page), and/or a
request for the trial to be recorded.  (If the trial is not being recorded, some judges will trample all over you.)  This would be the time to ask for a continuance because there's been no reply to your subpoena(s) and/or your request for Discovery.  Also, if you requested Discovery from the prosecutor, this would be your last opportunity to give the officer/prosecutor any documents you need to Discover to him.
Since these things need to be done right away, you will need to interrupt the officer's description of your violation, before he gets more than a few words out.  
"Your Honor... I have a pre-trial motion."


The Timing...

"Timing is Everything"
Exodus 2:11-15

Technically, the right time to make pre-trial motions is before any testimony.  Thus, if you wait - as described above - until after the officer has given his foundational testimony, it could be too late!  On the other hand, if you interrupt the mass proceedings before the officer has begun to lay the foundation, you could get an impatient or angry reaction from the judge.


Defense:  Identity

Once all the preliminary matters (pre-trial motions, foundational testimony) have been taken care of (by now you could be in another courtroom and/or on another day), the Court will allow the officer to continue presenting his case.

The officer will show the judge the photo of the driver's face, after which the judge might speak up and say that he thinks it's not clear enough, or that it is not you.  (If the face photo is of poor quality, don't cave-in and ask for traffic school before the officer has shown it to the judge.)
If the face photo is blurry (or not you) and the judge hasn't reacted, bring the subject up once the officer has completely finished his presentation and it is your turn to talk.  Ask the judge to "dismiss for lack of proof beyond a reasonable doubt" that you were the driver, or simply ask him, "Your Honor, are you sure it's me?"  Do not say "It's not me!" if you know that it was you driving, as that would be a lie, which is perjury.

(As part of your preparation to do an identity defense at trial, you should read Defect # 1 on the Home page, and the Fourth Step in the It's Not Me section above on this page.
Also read about California's Truth in Evidence law and the Best Evidence Rule.)

If the judge rules that it was you in the photo, you could ask for traffic school and still have a fair chance of getting it;  or, you could move on to your next line of questioning.


Defense:  Foundational Requirements

Once the officer has presented his evidence (and you have questioned identity, as above), you (still) have the floor.

Earlier, when he "laid the foundation," the officer should have testified that they posted warning signs (Defect # 4), gave public notice / announcements 30 days before starting up the system and gave warning tickets for 30 days (he may call it a "grace period" - Defect # 6), have long enough yellows (Defect # 2), and that the camera was calibrated and operating properly (CVC 21455.5(c)(2)(C)).

Ask the officer who is certifying that the camera was calibrated and operating properly.  (Subsections A & D of Defect # 10 - Hearsay.)

Ask the officer what date the contract with the camera vendor was signed.  If he replies that it was after Jan. 1, 2004, ask him if the city is paying the vendor at a flat-rate rent per month.  Any kind of sliding scale that depends upon the quantity of tickets issued or the amount of ticket revenue the city receives from the court would be a violation of CVC 21455.5(h).  Bring a certified copy of the contract with you, so you won't have to depend upon the officer's memory.  (Subsection B of Defect # 10 - Cost Neutrality.)

Ask the officer what date "your" camera was activated.  (If the judge questions the relevance of your question, tell him about CVC 21455.5.)  Ask the officer for the dates he gave warning tickets to drivers at your camera, and any document proving same.  (Defect # 6, Defect # 10.)

Ask him if there was a public announcement - mentioning your camera.  Ask for proof of that announcement - such as a newspaper "tear sheet."  (CVC 21455.5, Defect # 10.)

Ask the officer to show you and the court the written guidelines - all three kinds - and the "...procedures to ensure compliance."  And check the dates they were written, and who wrote them.  (CVC 21455.5, Defect # 10 - A.)

Ask for proof the warning signs were posted - make the officer provide evidence that they were up at the subject intersection at the time the ticket was issued.  (CVC 21455.5, Defect # 4.)

If the city has failed to meet any one of the foundational requirements above, make a motion to exclude the photos and dismiss the case, for "lack of foundation."  Include a statement addressing
Truth in Evidence.


About Cross-Examining the Officer

"More often than not, when you ask the officer a good question - one to which a truthful answer might be damaging to the prosecution - the officer will avoid answering directly.  Another frequent annoyance is where the officer properly answers your question but then starts to give a speech.  This can be unnerving - and it is improper.  You may want to 'rein in' the officer..."
From Fight Your Ticket, which tells you how to do that, in the section "Cross-Examining the Officer - Basic Strategy," in Chapter 11.


About Lies

"You don't tell deliberate lies, but sometimes you have to be evasive."
    Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, 1925 - 2013

"That's not a lie, it's a terminological inexactitude. Also, a tactical misrepresentation."
    (Ret. Gen.) Alexander Haig, Nixon's Chief of Staff, Secretary of State to Reagan, 1924 - 2010

"If you cannot convince them, confuse them."
    Harry S. Truman, American President, 1884 - 1972

"We payt a person the compliment of acknowledging his superiority whenever we lie to him."
    Samuel Butler, British satirist, 1835 - 1902 (wrote "Erewhon" and "The Way of All Flesh")

"Falsehood is invariably the child of fear in one form or another."
    Aleister Crowley, English occultist, poet, novelist, painter and mountaineer, 1875 - 1947

"There are people who exaggerate so much they can't tell the truth without lying."
    Mark Twain, American writer, 1835 - 1910

"Half the truth is often a great lie."
    Benjamin Franklin, 1706 - 1790

"A lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies."
    Alfred Lord Tennyson, English playwright, Poet Laureate, 1809 - 1892 (wrote "Charge of the Light Brigade")

"There is no worse lie than a truth misunderstood by those who hear it."
    William James, American M.D., teacher, philosopher, 1842 - 1910 (wrote "Principles of Psychology," brother of Henry James)

"If it doesn't make sense, you should find for the defense."
    Atty. Johnnie Cochran, 1937 - 2005


Lies by Court Personnel



Compiled by highwayrobbery.net


Step 3 (cont'd):  More about Your Not Guilty Trial

If the judge denies your "foundation" motion (or if you didn't make one), argue your other defenses, if you have some.  If your other defenses involve photos that you have taken, or documents you have found, bring three (3) copies of each with you - one for the judge, one for the officer, one for you.

As part of your preparation, you should read about California's
Truth in Evidence law and the Best Evidence Rule.

If nothing works and you are found "guilty," remember to ask for traffic school, if you want it.  If you forgot to ask for it while you were in front of the judge and court is still in session, ask the courtroom clerk if you can re-appear before the judge.


Trial Checklist

Here is a checklist, a condensed version of Step 3, above.  

Note:  In a murder trial with a jury, the expert lawyer might switch items C. and D. below, asking the foundational questions first - to keep the jury from ever seeing the face photo, no matter how blurry.  But for traffic trials - which never have juries - I suggest using the sequence as given.



Abbreviated Trial Checklist

A.  Take enough cash with you so you can park in a lot, instead of a meter!

B.  Don't panic and ask for traffic school before you're called forward for your trial.

C.  Once you have been called forward, immediately make your pre-trial motions -

  (1)  Ask for the session to be recorded.

  (2)  Make your Peremptory Challenge (CCP 170.6) if you need to (if the judge is convicting everyone, won't give traffic school, etcetera).

  (3)  Give the prosecutor or officer any last-minute Discovery you owe him, and ask for a continuance if you have issued a subpoena or asked for Discovery and there has been no reply.

D.  Identity:  If the face photo is blurry, or clearly not you (or the officer forgot to show it to the judge), tell the judge you're not testifying, then ask for dismissal for lack of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving the vehicle.  (See Defect # 1 on the Home page, and the Fourth Step of the It's Not Me section, above on this page.)  In the heat of trial, most defendants forget to ask this question; so, I suggest that you write it on your hand or on a Post-It that you will stick to the defense table.

If the judge rules that it was you driving, and you have not prepared any other defenses/questions, ask for traffic school.

E.  Foundational Questions -

  (1)  Ask who is certifying about calibration and proper operation.  (CVC 21455.5(c)(2)(C), Defect # 10 - A & D.)

  (2)  Ask the date the contract was signed, and if after 1-1-04, if it is totally "flat rate."   (CVC 21455.5(h), Defect # 10 - B.)

  (3)  Ask for dates of, and proof of, warning tickets and also public announcements, for your camera.  (CVC 21455.5(b), Defect # 6, Defect # 10.)

  (4)  Ask to see written guidelines - "uniform guidelines for screening and issuing violations and for the processing and storage of confidential information" (both in CVC 21455.5(c)(1), Defect # 10 - A), and "selection of location" (CVC 21455.5(c)(2)(A)).  And ask for the "procedures to ensure compliance" with those guidelines (also in CVC 21455.5(c)(1)).  Check the date they were written, and by whom.

  (5)  Ask for proof the signs were posted.  (CVC 21455.5(a)(1), Defect # 4.)

  (6)  If appropriate, make a motion to exclude the photos, and dismiss the case, for lack of foundation.  Include a statement addressing Truth in Evidence.

F.  Argue your other defenses, if you have some.

G.  If you lose, ask for traffic school.



'CHEAT SHEET' AVAILABLE

If all these Code sections (and other numbers) are beginning to circle around in your head, I suggest that you go to the Site Index and print out the 'Cheat Sheet' available there.  That way, you will have a ready reference to refresh your memory.  I use it too!



Trial by Declaration ( "TBD" ) / Trial de Novo ( "TDN" )

We almost lost Trial de Novo!  Until June 24, 2014 there was a bill moving the California Legislature to take away Trial de Novo after a Trial by Declaration.  Details at Top of Action/Legis Page.

TBD is trying a ticket by mail.  TBD allows you to have a trial, without having to go to the courthouse even once!  And, if you lose your TBD, you can ask for a second trial, called a Trial de Novo, which will be just like a regular in-courtroom trial.  While some other ticket advisors have been strongly recommending doing a TBD, I have not been, because I think it can be a waste of time.  But there are some situations, discussed below, where TBD could be a way to dispose of the ticket.  I have provided pre-written declarations for one of those situations.  See "Filing a TBD," below.


Advantages of Doing a TBD

You won't have to stand nervously in front of the judge - possibly forgetting to state some of your best arguments.
It gives you an additional bite at the apple (two chances to win), potentially in front of two different judges.
It gives the police two opportunities to fail to present their case, in which case you win. One of those opportunities would be if they don't file their TBD papers, and the other would be if their officer does not show up for a later Trial de Novo (an in-courtroom trial).
It helps you prepare for a later Trial de Novo (should one be necessary), in a couple ways. It rehearses you, gets your thoughts in order.  Plus, the City's TBD papers - you can get a copy - will reveal the arguments and evidence they will use during the TDN.
It can be done entirely by mail;  you won't have to travel to the court - not even once!
You won't lose a day, or days, of work.


Disadvantages of Doing a TBD

You probably will not be able to appear at an in-court arraignment, thus you may miss a chance to get a reduced fine in return for a guilty plea.
You give up your guaranteed traffic school.  With a TBD, as with a live trial, traffic school is at the judge's discretion.
In order to do a TBD, you must put up the full bail - there is no "OR" or payment plans.  However, you might be able to retrieve some of that money by including in your TBD a request for Community Service or a reduced fine.
Statements you make in your TBD could possibly be used against you in a later Trial de Novo.  The TBD form includes this:
"I know that I have the right not to be compelled to be a witness against myself.  I understand and agree that by making any statement, I am giving up and waiving that right and privilege."
For more information, read TBD Situation # 3, below.


We almost lost Trial de Novo!  Until June 24, 2014 there was a bill moving the California Legislature to take away Trial de Novo after a Trial by Declaration.  Details at Top of Action/Legis Page.


TBD Situation # 1 - No Warning Tickets

In Mar. 2014 the California Supreme Court issued its decision about warning tickets.  In People v. Gray it agreed that a city must issue warning tickets when it adds a new camera, but the Court limited that protection to benefit only those motorists whose violations occurred when the new camera first became operational.  So, if "your" city installed "your" camera and did not issue warning tickets for 30 days after that installation, and your violation occurred during that period, this issue can be raised in court.  After the Gray decision the few cities still adding cameras to their systems will be careful to issue warning tickets, so highwayrobbery.net will not update the pre-Gray written declaration below (in the blue "wallpaper" area) until a city errs.   See the expanded version of Defects # 6 and # 10 on the Home page.


TBD Situation # 2 - Missing Warning Signs

At Prairie and 111th in Inglewood, the City forgot to put up all the required warning signs (see Defect # 4 on the Home page, and the Inglewood section on the Camera Towns page).  They finally had all the signs up on Aug. 19, 2004, but by that time they had issued hundreds, perhaps thousands, of tickets there.  When this same thing happened in Bakersfield, the City (eventually) decided to dismiss all the tickets.  But in Inglewood there has been no general dismissal, even though it has been months since the problem was revealed.  As a result, each defendant with a Prairie / 111th ticket that occurred prior to Aug. 19 will have to have to take it to court, if they want to beat it.  See the pre-written declaration, below (in the blue "wallpaper" area).


TBD Situation # 3 - "It's Not Me!" / Wrong Defendant

If the ticket is in your name but it's not you in the photo AND the photo is sufficiently clear that a comparison between it and your driver's license photo would raise a strong doubt that it was you driving the car, or if it is inconvenient for you to come to court in person, you may want to do a TBD on the question of the identity of the driver.   You could submit a color copy of your driver's license photo plus other photo ID (passport?) if suitable, and a color copy of your ticket (or the original).  I suggest being careful about the wording of your TBD - so that if you later have a Trial de Novo, the judge there will not be able to use the words you wrote in your TBD to force you to testify and identify the driver.  A discussion of wording is in Steps # 2 and # 4 of the "It's Not Me!" section above on this page.  There is no pre-written declaration, below.


Doing a TBD?  Watch Out for This!

Some courts have been trying to make it difficult or impossible for defendants to fight their tickets by TBD.  Some of the barriers thrown up are designed to block defendants who want to contest identity via TBD - even where there is an obvious gender mismatch.

Alameda County:  The Alameda County courts had a local rule, rescinded Feb. 9, 2009, which said,
"Rule 4.320.  A defendant who proceeds to trial by written declaration in a Photo Red Light Citation issued by an automated traffic enforcement system gives up the right to contest the fact that he or she was not the driver of the vehicle."  [Rescinded.]
Alameda County still has, as of 2009, some court clerks who invoke a (long-ago rescinded) "100-mile" rule.  They say that if you live within 100 miles of the court you cannot make your request for TBD by phone - you must come to the court in person!

Sacramento County:  When you contact a court and request a TBD, most courts will give you, or send you, the necessary forms.  In Sacramento County, in addition to the usual statewide-approved TBD forms (TR-205, TR-200), they have a special form that they created just for their own courthouse; it asks you to stipulate (admit) that you were the driver!  For more info about the form, look at Set # 6 of Sacramento Documents.

In 2014 they almost took Trial de Novo away from us!  Until June 24, 2014 there was a bill moving the California Legislature to take away Trial de Novo after a Trial by Declaration.  Details at Top of Action/Legis Page.

If "your" county court has made up their own rules or forms in an effort to deprive you of your rights, please let me know.



Filing a TBD

Often, you can use all or parts of the text from the sample TBDs that are in the blue "wallpaper" area at the end of this web page.  Excellent directions on how to file a TBD are in Fight Your Ticket.  Information is also available on the web site Help! I got a ticket!  If you just need blank forms, you can get the latest versions of the TR-205 and TR-200 forms from the forms page of the Judicial Council of California.

If you do decide to submit a TBD, make sure that you include a TR-205 (even though it might be redundant), and be sure to get an extra copy of your TBD date-stamped by the court clerk, so that you will have solid proof that the court received it.   If you want to submit your TBD through the mail, simply enclose an extra copy of the TBD (marked "copy"), a stamped self-addressed envelope, and a note asking the clerk to date-stamp the copy and return it to you.  I am a "belt and suspenders" person, so if I was going to mail a TBD to the court, I would send it by Certified Mail, return receipt requested.  And I would still ask the clerk to return a stamped copy to me.  I also recommend that you type your TBD paperwork - handwritten TBDs seem to be less successful.

Cal. Veh. Code Sec. 40902 and Cal. Rules of Court Rule 4.210alternate link to rules ) govern TBD and provide that a defendant who has lost his TBD is entitled to a new trial in court, called a Trial de Novo.  Again, see Fight Your Ticket.


The Deadline to Request a TBD

Rule 4.210alternate link to rules ) says that a request for a TBD should be made by the date indicated on the Notice to Appear (where it says, "You must respond to the court on or before ______").  While Rule 4.210 does not say it in so many words, it is clear to me that the deadline to request TBD would be extended by any extension you have obtained of the "respond to" date.  It is less clear whether the deadline to request TBD would be extended to the date of a later in-court arraignment.  Help I got a ticket! says that you can request TBD at arraignment.  I think it will depend upon the individual arraignment judge's interpretation of Rule 4.210.

A reader pointed out:

"I'm just now filing for a TBD. The ticket contained one set of instructions ON the ticket in small print, saying you must file for a TBD FIVE DAYS before your appearance date. But the instructions sent on a separate sheet WITH the ticket said you simply must file by the appearance date. The court took the liberty of using the 5-day rule and marked my case as "bail forfeiture." After going down there, showing them the instructions sent WITH the ticket and proof that I followed those instructions, they removed the bail forfeiture and are allowing me to file the trial by declaration paperwork. Just a problem your website readers might want to watch out for."


Making Sense of the TBD Filing Deadline

Rule 4.210 isn't very clear, the Form TR-205 title is confusing, and the local court's info pages don't help much either.

To initiate the TBD process, post the bail.  If you haven't yet written up your defense argument, no problem!  All they require is that you post the bail on or before the "respond to" date (or the extended "respond to" date).  Once you post the bail they will give you some extra time to write up and submit your defense argument.  Those who cannot come to the clerk's window at the courthouse will need to mail in the bail, and they should mail it at least five days before the "respond to" (or the extended "respond to" date).  Why not by phone or the 'Net?  Bail payment must be by cash or check.  They will not take credit cards for the bail, so you will not be able to initiate the process by phone or the Internet.  Interestingly, if you just want to plead guilty and pay the fine and not have a TBD or a trial, they WILL take credit cards.

So, when the "respond to" date (or the extended "respond to" date) is near and you want to do a TBD, you have two choices -

(1)  If you already have your TBD argument all written up on a TR-205 form you have downloaded (your argument must be written on or at least be accompanied by a TR-205 form), just mail or bring the completed form to the court, along with a check for the bail*.  If you are mailing it to the court, you should put it in the mail at least five days in advance of the "respond to" date (or the extended "respond to" date).

Or...

(2)  If you haven't yet written up your defense argument, just mail or bring the court your check for the bail* and a note saying that you are pleading not guilty and want do do a TBD.  The court will send you or give you a TR-205 form, and on that form they will have written a due date that will be 25 days away.  You then fill-in your argument (your argument must be written on or at least be accompanied by a TR-205 form), and then mail or bring the completed TR-205 back to the court.  These mailings should be done at least five days in advance.

*To avoid any confusion, you should write "TBD bail" on your check.  Do not include the traffic school fee in your bail check.  If your TBD includes a request to be granted TS if you are found guilty, and the judge finds you guilty and also grants TS to you (a rare occurrence), the court will notify you to send in the traffic school fee.




Following-Up on a TBD

A very useful website (JP's Fight Your Ticket, see my Links page) gives this warning:
ADVISORY:  It is imperative that you follow up on your TBD.  Some courts sit on these cases.  They are also aware that if you know how to fight by TBD (remember, less than 1% of those ticketed actually fight [On red light cameras it's more like 10% - editor, highwayrobbery.net], and even a smaller percentage request TBDs), you also know how to request a Trial de Novo.  You have 20 days from the TBD verdict to request a Trial de Novo.  By withholding case disposition information from you, they hope that the odds of you continuing the fight will be nil.  It happened to me in one of my cases; I had to personally drive to the traffic court to get the "guilty" letter in my hand 14 days after the verdict because they never updated my case disposition.  Call the court once a week if you have to.  Get their direct number as they deliberately mask it to keep you from calling them.  Also read Chapter 10 in [Brown's]
Fight Your Ticket.
(From Section VI. of JP's Fight Your Ticket.)


Filing for Trial de Novo

When you file for your TDN, be sure to request a copy of whatever papers or statements the officer filed as his response to your TBD.  Also note that while Rule 4.210(b)(7)alternate link to rules ) provides that they must give you a TDN date that is within 45 days of the date you filed your request for the TDN, there is little a defendant can do if the court violates the Rule.  See FAQ # 28.

In 2014 we almost lost Trial de Novo!  Until June 24 there was a bill moving the California Legislature to abolish Trial de Novo after a Trial by Declaration.  Details at Top of Action/Legis Page.



Trial Examples, More Actions to Take

To read some sample trial transcripts, see my Library of Transcripts, Briefs, and Court Decisions.

Even if your ticket is not from Culver City, Hawthorne or Inglewood, you may find the information in those cities' chronologies (on the Camera Towns page) to be useful.

Other resources:  David Brown's book Fight Your Ticket, and the website Help! I got a ticket!  See the Links page for more details.

Finally, please send information about your illegal intersection, so it can be posted on the Camera Towns page.  You can use the questionnaire on the Action page, if you wish.

Continue to fight your ticket.  Alert your local press.  And contact your legislators/auto club about the Legislation (on the Action page).



Appeals

If you are about to go to trial and are planning to appeal if you lose, be sure to make a
request for your trial be recorded or steno'd.  It is best to make the request ahead of time, before the trial date.

If you've been found "guilty" and the trial was steno'd, the first thing you will need to do - right away - is contact the stenographer and order the transcript.  If the trial was tape recorded by the court, you will need to contact the court and purchase a copy of the tape.

The deadline to file your Notice of Appeal is within 30 days from the date the guilty verdict was handed down.  But don't file your Notice of Appeal right away.  Wait until about the 25th day of the 30-day appeal period.  Why?

Once you have filed your Notice of Appeal, you will have just 15 days to file your Proposed Statement on Appeal ("PSOA").  The PSOA must include a brief statement of your grounds for appeal, and a recounting of what happened at trial.  That recounting can be a summary, written by you, of the portion(s) of the trial where you think the legal error(s) occurred, or it can be a word-for-word transcript of the trial, transcribed by you or by a court reporter.  It can take several weeks for a court reporter to provide a transcript - thus the suggestion, above, to wait until the 25th day to file your Notice of Appeal.

If your trial judge granted your request for traffic school, and you wish to preserve the ability to attend the school (in case you do not win your appeal), consider requesting a "stay."  The request should be made shortly after filing the Notice of Appeal.  See the example,
here.

After your PSOA and the prosecutor's PSOA (rare!) have been filed with the court, an in-court hearing (with your original trial judge) is set to reconcile the PSOA(s) with what the judge remembers.

After the in-court hearing, the judge will send the Settled Statement, and the exhibits, to the Appellate Department.  I recommend that you wait a couple weeks after the hearing, and check with the Appellate Department to see if all your exhibits were sent up and if the Settled Statement correctly describes what happened during the trial.

During the appeal process, whenever you are supposed to serve documents on the opposition, serve both the city attorney and the district attorney - even if someone has told you that you only need to serve one or the other.

Resource Materials for Appeals


The book
Fight Your Ticket has a whole chapter devoted to the subject of Appeals.
The forms for appeals (CR-141 thru CR-144) are available on the court's
official forms site.  (At the site, select "Traffic Infractions" on the drop down menu.)
Appeals are controlled by rules of court 8.900 - 8.929 which are at
official rules site. alternate link to rules )
For examples of appeals, see my
Library of Transcripts, Briefs, and Court Decisions.



Internal Links

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Written Declarations for "Trial by Declaration"  (see Trial by Declaration/Trial de Novo section, above)

You can use the Judicial Council's standard form ( alterate link to forms ), or you can use one of the samples below.
To use a sample, highlight it, then copy (Control-C then Control -V) it into a blank word processor document.  Some of the bold type information, or which is in multiple brackets [[[  ]]] must be changed to fit your case.


Declaration for a Ticket at an Intersection Where No Warning Tickets (warning notices) Were Issued


January 28, 2009
Mervyn P. Motorist
123 Home Lane
Anytown, USA

Traffic Docket
Los Angeles Superior Court
One East Regent Street
Inglewood, CA 90301

Re: People v. Mervin P. Motorist, Traffic Citation - Inglewood Police Department Citation No. 123456789IX

Declaration of Mervin P. Motorist Pursuant to Vehicle Code Sec. 40902 (Trial by Written Declaration)

To the Judge or Commissioner of the Traffic Docket:

Pursuant to Vehicle Code Section 40902, I wish to exercise my right to trial by declaration with regard to a Vehicle Code infraction citation.

As required, I enclose a check for $341 bail.  Please refund the same to me in the event the court finds me "not guilty."

In the event that the court finds me "guilty," I request permission to attend traffic school.

I know that I have the right not to be compelled to be a witness against myself. I understand and agree that by making any statement, I am giving up and waiving that right and privilege.

The facts contained in the following Declaration of Facts are personally known to me and are true and correct.

The following evidence supports my case and includes everything I want the court to consider in deciding my case:
Photographs: None
Diagram: None
Car repair receipt: None
Other (specify): None

DECLARATION OF FACTS:

Based upon evidence obtained via an automated camera within the City of [[[ ]]] (hereinafter, "the City"), defendant is accused of failing to stop for a red signal, in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 21453(a), 21453(b) or 21453(c) (hereinafter, all Code references are to the California Vehicle Code, except where noted otherwise). In this matter the People's sole evidence is a series of photos and/or video generated by said automated camera. There were no witnesses to the incident.

Section 21455.5 sets out requirements which must be met by a governmental city, county, or other agency which operates such an automated camera. Subsections (a) and (b) of Section 21455.5 state:

(a) 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 enforcement system if the governmental agency utilizing the system meets all of the following requirements:
   (1) Identifies the system by signs that clearly indicate the system's presence and are visible to traffic approaching from all directions, or posts signs at all major entrances to the city, including, at a minimum, freeways, bridges, and state highway routes.
   (2) If it locates the system at an intersection, and ensures that the system meets the criteria specified in Section 21455.7.
(b) Prior to issuing citations under this section, a local jurisdiction utilizing an automated traffic enforcement system [[[ underline the word "system"]]] shall commence a program to issue only warning notices for 30 days. The local jurisdiction shall also make a public announcement of the automated traffic enforcement system at least 30 days prior to the commencement of the enforcement program. (Emphasis added.)

ARGUMENT:

It is Defendant's understanding, from available evidence, that the City chose to issue the warning notices required by Subsection 21455.5(b) only upon the installation of the first automated camera in its jurisdiction, that said first installation was at an intersection that was not the site of the violation alleged herein, and that as a result of the foregoing, the City will not be able to provide evidence that warning notices were issued pursuant to Subsection 21455.5(b) with regard to the intersection at which the violation occurred in this case.

[[[OR]]]

Pursuant to a Public Records Act request, Defendant obtained from the City Clerk of the City a true and certified copy of a City document, and said certified copy is attached as Exhibit #1.  Said City document says that it is an exclusive agreement or contract between the City and Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. (hereinafter the “Supplier” or "Redflex"), providing for the Supplier to supply the City with automated enforcement equipment and services.  Said City document says it was signed on [[[date]]].

Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, College Edition, defines a “contract” as an agreement.  Further, it defines an “agreement” as a contract.  Thus Exhibit #1, the agreement or contract between the City and Supplier is a contract, and hereinafter will be referred to as the “Contract.”

Paragraph [[[usually 1.30 or 1.33]]] of the Contract says: "1.33 'Warning Period' means a period after the Installation Date of the first [[[underline "first"]]] intersection approach, wherein only warning notices shall be issued…" (Emphasis added.) It is clear from the wording of the Contract that the City chose to issue the warning notices required by Subsection 21455.5(b) only upon the installation of the first automated camera in its jurisdiction.  [[[Here, provide a city press release or other document giving the name of the intersection where the first camera was installed.]]]  Because the violation alleged herein was not at the location of the first camera installed in the City, it is evident that the City will not be able to provide evidence that warning notices were issued pursuant to Subsection 21455.5(b) with regard to the intersection at which the violation occurred.

[[[OR]]]

On [[[date]]] the defendant made a public records request to the City. A copy of said request is attached as Exhibit [[[ ]]]. In that request, defendant requested a sampling of the warning notices generated by the automated camera at the site of the violation alleged herein. On (date) the City replied that there were no warning notices issued [[[or that there were no documents responsive to defendant's request]]]. (Exhibit [[[ ]]].)

The City's decision to forego issuing warning notices upon the installation of the automated camera at the site of the violation alleged herein, is inconsistent with the intent of Subsection 21455.5(b). Furthermore, the City's decision is a violation of "equal protection."

THE LEGISLATIVE INTENT

Because Section 21455.5(a) provides that "the intersection" may be equipped with an automated enforcement system, "automated enforcement system" in Section 21455.5(b) cannot refer to the City's overall automated enforcement plan, but must instead refer to each individual automated camera system operated at an intersection within the City.

This intersection-specific construction is also consistent with the common definition of "system" as a group of regularly interacting or interdependent items forming a unified whole (Merriam-Webster' s Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed.. 1993) , p. 1194), a definition which is not in harmony with the City's evident interpretation and application of the word. Although the automated enforcement equipment operating at a particular intersection must interact in a manner necessary to produce photographic images of a violation, sets of equipment operating at different intersections within a jurisdiction need not interact with each other in order to function, and an agency might even elect to operate incompatible types of equipment at different intersections.

Further, if we look at all of Section 21455.5, the author included, in addition to the requirement for 30 days of warning notices, two other requirements to warn motorists:  (1) A requirement to post large warning signs, and (2) a requirement to make a public announcement 30 days before beginning operation. Further, in Section 21455.6, which was enacted by the same bill (AB 1022 of 2003) as Section 21455.5, the legislature required that a public hearing be held.  In requiring so many kinds of warnings, the legislature clearly wanted motorists to be warned to the greatest extent possible.  The issuance of warning notices each time a new camera is installed is the interpretation most consistent with their intent.  Any interpretation that would diminish the amount of warning is inconsistent.

Even if use of the word "system" in Section 21455.5 were ambiguous, the legislative history of Section 21455.5 demonstrates that the word refers to the set of equipment installed and operated at an individual intersection and not to a municipality's entire aggregation of such equipment.

The Legislature in 2003 rejected an amendment to SB 780 which would have expressly provided for the warning notice period of Subsection 21455.5(b) to occur "during the first 30 days after the first recording unit is installed," and the omission of this language from the amendment enacted in that same year is indicative of a legislative intent to avoid linkage of the 30-day warning notice period with an agency's initial installation of an automated camera. (See City of Santa Cruz v. Municipal Court (1989) 49 Cal.3d 74, 88-89; People v. Adams (1976) 59 Cal.App.3d 559, 565-566.)

EQUAL PROTECTION

The City's decision to give warning notices only upon the installation of the first camera anywhere in the City left the following motorists without notice:
(a) Motorists in a section of the City that didn't previously have a camera and which is miles away from the nearest previously-existing camera, and
(b) motorists new to the area (some of the City's cameras were installed more than [[[ ]]] years ago).

From the perspective of motorists for whom the statutory warning notice requirements were intended to provide protection, it does not make sense, and is unfair, for the geographic scope of the 30-day warning notice period to be defined arbitrarily by where one lives or the geographic size of the city, county or government agency in question, or for warning notices to be limited to a period many years ago simply because the agency's overall automated enforcement program is an old one, inasmuch as the legislatively-stated purpose of the warning notice requirement is to deter red light violations and that purpose is best achieved by the issuance of new warning notices to current local users each time automated enforcement equipment commences operation at an intersection.

Under Section 21455.5(b) compliance is required "[p]rior to issuing citations under this section...."  Hence, the burden is upon the City to provide proof that for the intersection where defendant's violation is alleged to have occurred, it issued warning notices for 30 days prior to commencing the issuance of citations at that location.  Absent said proof, the City exceeded its jurisdiction by commencing the prosecution of defendant without having complied with the Section 21455.5(b) warning notice requirements.

"Because the record in this case shows a lack of compliance with the requirement of Vehicle Code section 21455.5, subdivision (b), that a municipality utilizing an automated enforcement system at an intersection comply with the prescribed warning requirements '[p]rior to issuing citations,' the conviction must be reversed. [Citations.]" (People v. Park (2010) 187 Cal.App.4th Supp. 9.)

MOTION

Section 21455.5 is "foundational." The defense submits that photos produced by the illegal use of an automated enforcement camera may not be admitted as evidence against defendant.  In as much as the photos are the only evidence offered by the City, the defense respectfully requests, and moves, that this matter be dismissed.

I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct and that this written statement was signed by me on September 20, 2009.

(signature)

Mervin P. Motorist


Declaration for an Inglewood Prairie / 111th Ticket - Missing Warning Signs


September 20, 2004
123 Home Lane
Anytown, USA

Traffic Docket
Los Angeles Superior Court
One East Regent Street
Inglewood, CA 90301

Re: People v. Mervin P. Motorist, Traffic Citation - Inglewood Police Department Citation No. 123456789IX

Declaration of Mervin P. Motorist Pursuant to Vehicle Code Sec. 40902 (Trial by Written Declaration)

To the Judge or Commissioner of the Traffic Docket:

Pursuant to Vehicle Code Section 40902, I wish to exercise my right to trial by declaration with regard to a Vehicle Code infraction citation.

As required, I enclose a check for $341 bail.  Please refund the same to me in the event the court finds me "not guilty."

In the event that the court finds me "guilty," I request permission to attend traffic school.

I know that I have the right not to be compelled to be a witness against myself.  I understand and agree that by making any statement, I am giving up and waiving that right and privilege.

The facts contained in the following Declaration of Facts are personally known to me and are true and correct.

The following evidence supports my case and includes everything I want the court to consider in deciding my case:
Photographs: On Internet, see below for URL.
Diagram
Car repair receipt
Other (specify):

DECLARATION OF FACTS:

The citation that is the subject of this case was generated by an automated enforcement camera.  Vehicle Code Section 21455.5 requires that a city operating such a camera post warning signs "visible to traffic approaching from all directions."  [The requirement to post signs in all directions ends Jan. 1, 2013.]  While the City of Inglewood did post signs facing traffic on Prairie Avenue, I have read that they admitted, during a Division 1 trial on Aug. 20, 2004 that they did not post warning signs on 111th Street until August 19, 2004.  My alleged violation occurred before August 19.  Photos (not taken by me) providing further evidence of the missing signs, are posted on the Internet at:  http://www.highwayrobbery.net/redlightcamsdocsInglewoodMain.html.

Section 21455.5 is "foundational."  It says, in part:
"(a) 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 enforcement system if the governmental agency utilizing the system meets all of the following requirements:
(1) Identifies the system by signs... visible to traffic approaching from all directions." nbsp;[The requirement to post signs in all directions ends Jan. 1, 2013.]

If the City violated Section 21455.5 by failing to post all of the required signs, I submit that photos produced by that illegal use of an automated enforcement camera may not be admitted as evidence against me.  In as much as the photos are the only evidence offered by the City, I respectfully request, and move, that this case be dismissed.

I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct and that this written statement was signed by me on September 20, 2004.

(signature)

Mervin P. Motorist