California Court of Appeal Throws Out Red Light Camera Ticket
California Court of Appeal overturns red light camera ticket evidence as hearsay.
The Newspaper, 12/31/12
Borzakian, a former deputy public defender, decided to fight the citation. During her January 2010 trial, Officer Mike Butkus provided the standard testimony that introduces Redflex evidence in all jurisdictions. Commissioner Carol J. Hallowitz ignored Borzakian’s objections, admitted the evidence and found Borzakian guilty, imposing a $435 fine plus a twelve-hour traffic school. Borzakian immediately appealed, citing the US Supreme Court case Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, which the traffic camera industry has feared since it was decided in 2009.
See California v. Borzakian (Court of Appeal, State of California, 1/26/2012)
US Supreme Court DecisionsThese cases can be cited as precedent in other cases. Melendez-Diaz (2009) 557 U.S. 305 (2009), is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that it was a violation of the Sixth Amendment right of confrontation without the testimony of the person whoof submitted these reports without testimony was unconstitutional.
In the Melendez-Diaz case, the high court ruled that merely producing such a certificate in court is insufficient. Defendants have the right to cross-examine any individual who claims to have certified evidence.
"Violators often object that they cannot challenge their accuser if it is a camera," Leslie Blakey, executive director of the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running said. "This new ruling may spur more court cases and lawsuits on the basis of the right to challenge the human elements of the evidentiary chain."
Blakey is principal of the Blakey and Agnew public relations firm that five of the top photo enforcement companies -- Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), CMA Consulting, Gatso of the Netherlands, Lasercraft of the UK and Redflex of Australia -- paid to create the National Campaign to lobby on their behalf. Each of these firms could face a tremendous challenge if their methods are brought into closer scrutiny, although Blakey believes that this constitutional protections may not apply in states where photo tickets have been made "civil" violations.
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion in Melendez-Diaz, a 5-4 majority agreed that despite the possible hassle involved in confirming each fact at trial, it is essential to the integrity of the court system that questioning of the evidence be allowed under the ruling, it becomes the burden of the state or local authority to ensure photo enforcement company employees show up to testify in court
A ruling from the Missouri Court of Appeals has put the brakes on Kansas City's red-light camera program, at least for the time being.
Kansas City's program is similar enough to the one in Ellisville that leaders said they will hold back on enforcing it.
Kansas City will keep the cameras rolling, but it won't issue any tickets to violators.
One driver told KMBC 9 News that he supports the ruling, but he can see the need for cameras at some intersections.
"I can see in, like, high-traffic areas with a lot of foot traffic, where people run through red lights, like on 71 Highway, it's kind of good to have them because it encourages people and slows them down," he said. "But for the most part, a lot of times, I just try to avoid those intersections."
Many experts believe the issue will eventually be decided by the Missouri Supreme Court. If the high court affirms the appeals court ruling, the city said it will determine whether to change or eliminate the red-light camera program.
In 2012, Kansas City issued 34,000 tickets from red-light camera violations. Police statistics indicate that crashes at intersections with those cameras were down 54 percent last year.
California is one of 23 states and the District of Columbia that operate red-light camera programs, but in 21 of those jurisdictions — including Maryland, Virginia and the District — violations generated by the cameras are civil infractions, like a parking ticket, issued to the vehicle’s owner instead of criminal violations levied against the driver. Making it a violation of Constitutional law since the owner of the vehicle is not the one who committed the violation but the person who drove the vehicle.The absence of the camera technicians in criminal cases, the judges said, violates the 6th Amendment’s Confrontation Clause of the Bill of Rights, which guarantees criminal defendants the right “to be confronted with the witnesses against them.” The Confrontation Clause — and the court decision — only applies to criminal cases. Which is incurred by the driver and not the owner unless the owner was the one driving.