How to Fight a Red Light Camera Ticket

By Marissa Willman
red light image by Leticia Wilson from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

With the implementation of red light cameras at intersections throughout the country, some drivers may face the unpleasant surprise of a red light camera ticket. These tickets must be dealt with, as they are a criminal offense and can result in fines, a suspended license and/or a point on your license if not dealt with promptly. These citations can be successfully challenged in court by following certai guidelines.

Verify its authenticity. In the past, fake tickets have been sent out to unsuspecting drivers by local police departments to get a driver to admit fault and pay a fine. Others may send out fake tickets to solicit personal information. Before taking any action, verify the ticket's authenticity with the court system for the county the violation took place in. In most counties, this can be done through the county website. If the ticket does not come up on the website, you can call the court or visit in person to verify that the ticket is legitimate. Real tickets will instruct you to contact the court to resolve this matter while fake tickets may tell you not to contact the court. Before proceeding, make sure your ticket is a court matter.

Understand the way it works. The majority of red light camera tickets will come with two photos of the incident as evidence. One photo will be of the car's license plate and the other will be a close-up shot of the driver. These photos are crucial as they serve as the main evidence that you ran a red light. If the license plate matches the plate on your vehicle but it was not you who was driving, you can ask the court to dismiss the charges. You can also ask for a dismissal if it is questionable if the person in the vehicle is you or not. Since an actual police officer was not present to identify the person who was driving, it is harder for the police to prove that you were operating the vehicle at the time.

If the photo caught you red-handed, you will need to try to fight your ticket on a technicality. Just because they have a photo of you from a camera at a photo-enforced intersection does not mean the ticket will hold up in court.

Educate yourself on the laws in your state regarding red light camera tickets. Most states requires photo enforcement notification signs within 300 yards of an intersection that utilizes this technology. In these states, the tickets are not enforceable if the signs are missing, damaged or otherwise do not notify drivers of photo enforcement. In many states there is a statute of limitations defining the amount of time law enforcement personnel have to issue a citation. In California, law enforcement has 15 days to mail the ticket. The state also mandates that in addition to the ticket being signed by a law enforcement officer, the ticket must also include the physical address and phone number of the court. If you find your ticket is missing any of these variables, you can argue against its legality in court.

Collect evidence to build your case. A visit to the intersection where the alleged incident took place can tell you if the correct signs are in place for proper notification. If the signs are missing, damaged, hidden or vandalized, take pictures to present to the judge. Signs to notify drivers of photo enforced intersections must follow the guidelines set forth by the state, so taking pictures of the existing signs can prove non-compliance to the court. Also, make note of dates on your ticket that may prove law enforcement took too long to inform you of this incident.

Most tickets also give you a time record of the crime. The ticket will include a second-value that tells you how many seconds after the light turned red that your vehicle crossed the stop line. If this number is fractional, such as 0.1, you can argue to the judge that you did not have time to come to a safe and complete stop.

Go to court to fight your red light camera ticket. Before you appear before the judge, practice your defense so that you will perform strongly in court. Bring all your evidence to your appearance and show the judge why the ticket is invalid. If the person in the photo is not you, argue to the judge that you cannot be held accountable for this crime. If state laws regarding photo enforcement were not properly followed, illustrate this to the judge with your ticket, photos and other evidence. Evidence will be your strongest defense in court.

About the Author

Marissa Willman is a Palm Springs-based travel journalist and content writer. She has been writing professionally since 2007 for such publications as Viator.com, VisitPalmSprings.com and Palm Springs Life. Willman is also the local guide for the Palm Springs section of travel website 10Best.com. Willman holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from California State University, Fullerton.