Thursday, July 9, 2010 -KUSI’s Michael Turko has an exclusive report on a new battle against red light camera tickets in San Diego. Turko says it’s based on a new case out of Orange County, a case that could have a big effect on those tickets state-wide.
The new court case from the appellate division of Orange County’s superior court system is forcing local officials to take another look at red light camera tickets. The judge in that case ruled that photos and videos alone are not sufficient to prove a violation. And now a San Diego attorney is asking local judges to take red light camera tickets here, and throw ‘em out!
This tiny but well-known office in Hillcrest has become ground zero in the fight against red light cameras and flambouyant local attorney Mitchell Mehdy known as Mr. Ticket is leading the charge.
“They just raised the fine on June 13th. This is ridiculous, minimum mandatory $460+ for a first offense” says Mehdy
The cameras make a lot of money for the city, county, and state. Theyre run by an Arizona outfit called American Traffic Solutions. Mehdy says theyre paid over a million dollars a year for the cameras themselves, but he says the system doesn’t protect the rights of citizens who get caught on camera at an intersection.
“They’re taking this information, shipping it to Arizona, shipping it back down to San Diego, handing it to a police officer—it’s not the police officer’s fault, he’s trying to do his job—and giving him the impossible task of trying to explain what happened when he wasn’t even there” Mehdy explains.
The presiding judge of Orange County Superior Court recently agreed in writing a case that could set a legal precedent.
Now here’s the bottom line: running a red light is a criminal offense and the Constitution says when you’re charged with a crime, you have the right to confront the witnesses against you. In this case, the witness is a machine and if it’s not set up right, machines make mistakes.
“What they do is they have a custodial officer,” explains Mehdy, “he gets an evidence package and he opens it up and there are a bunch of statements in there from a bunch of people saying I did everything correctly. Now if you ask the officer any questions concerning the censors or the record history, they’re not going to know that. You’re not going to be able to confront a witness, you’re not going to be able to fight the ticket.”
Mehdy says the city needs to provide a real expert witness in each case. Someone who can testify with firsthand knowledge about how each driver was caught on camera.
“The city wants to be cheap,” he says. “They want to save as much money with the camera system and maximize profits on this thing. This fight is going to change the way they do business, and the way they do business now is just not right.”
So the attorney Jan Goldsmith says his office will respond to the red light camera challenge. It’s interesting to note that Goldsmith himself was the first local judge to dismiss a red light camera case here in San Diego and he says each case has to be proven by credible witnesses. In the meantime lawyer Mitch Mehdy says if you’re facing a red light camera ticket, don’t just pay the fine, ask for a continuance and wait until all of this gets sorted out sometime later this summer.