NMA Email Newsletter: Issue #85

Making A Difference

This headline caught our attention: “Does Ruling Doom Red Light Cameras?” The story postulates that a recent decision by an Orange County, CA appellate court to overturn an earlier red-light running conviction could, in fact, be the death knell of red-light cameras in the state.

The appeal of the case in question, “People of the State of California vs. Tarek Khaled,” centered on the issue of whether the photo evidence against Khaled lacked foundation, i.e., whether it could be accepted as legitimate on its own. The appellate justices ruled that without a witness from the private camera company to provide relevant testimony regarding what the camera captured, the evidence did lack foundation and was inadmissible. They reversed the earlier Khaled conviction.

This decision means that the cost of prosecuting red-light photo tickets just jumped in Orange County if — and this is a BIG “if” — enough defendants decide to challenge their red-light camera tickets, forcing the appearance of a camera company employee at each trial. Currently, less than five percent of traffic ticket recipients fight the charges against them in court. That isn’t enough for most district attorneys to worry about. But if a higher percentage of ticket recipients begin pleading not guilty and demanding a witness to legitimize the photo evidence, the Orange County appellate decision suddenly casts a shadow on the financial viability of red-light camera programs in that jurisdiction.

A Riverside County, CA red-light ticket case argued identically to “Khaled,” which also resulted in a conviction at the municipal level, was brought to our attention. The NMA Foundation is funding the appeal, which will also be presented exactly like “Khaled” so that the precedent set by the Orange County appellate ruling is pertinent. A Riverside County appeals court decision that matches that in Orange County could well be the beginning of rulings in other California counties that cause those localities to take a long hard look at the true cost of gaining convictions via their red-light camera programs. And we know from several case histories that if photo enforcement programs aren’t profitable, the ticket cameras quickly disappear, along with the safety claims made by ticket camera proponents to originally justify those programs.

The National Motorists Association Foundation was established ten years ago to protect and improve the interests of the driving public. The NMA Foundation awards financial grants in the areas of education, research and legal aid where key projects can have the broadest beneficial impact for motorists. These grants are made possible because of the financial support of NMA members. You and the NMA Foundation can and do make a difference.


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