California nears decision on ticket cameras

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 9/17/2012

An effort in California that is billed as a consumer initiative to curb red-light camera abuses is awaiting a decision from the governor.

State lawmakers approved a bill that is intended to help ease concerns about ticket cameras being used as revenue generators. Fines for red-light camera violations now can exceed $500 with court costs.

If signed into law the rule change would establish statewide standards for installation and operation of ticket cameras by local governments.

Before communities can install cameras, the bill specifies that they must show “the system is needed at a specific location for reasons related to safety.” The provision would affect ticket systems installed after Jan. 1, 2013. Existing systems would be required to be in compliance the following year.

In addition, SB1303 would simplify efforts to challenge wrongfully issued tickets and outlaw so-called “snitch tickets” that attempt to force vehicle owners to identify another driver to get a ticket cleared.

Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said he does not oppose ticket cameras. He simply wants to address concerns about accuracy, privacy and due process.

“I think we can keep folks safe and still give the driving public a fair shake,” Simitian said in a statement.

Critics have taken issue with a hearsay evidence rule that they say weakens the ability to fight tickets.

State law now prohibits hearsay evidence in court cases. The bill would specify that evidence collected from ticket cameras is not hearsay. The change would ensure that computer printouts, photos and video associated with the devices are admissible in court.

Simitian said the change is needed because of conflicting court cases on the issue.

Gov. Jerry Brown has until Sept. 30 to decide whether he will sign or veto the bill. A year ago he vetoed a similar effort, citing his desire for local officials to oversee the ticket cameras.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California, click here.

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