Los Angeles

Red-Light Citations Leave Drivers Confused

Right or wrong, we all hate getting tickets.

The expense and the impact on insurance rates makes for a miserable experience.

But in Los Angeles County, there’s growing confusion over whether you should be paying certain citations at all.

We’re talking about tickets issued after people were allegedly photographed running red lights.

After years of demanding payment on these citations, the County of Los Angeles is backing off, leaving a lot of drivers concerned about their next step.

Marlene Glenn was issued a ticket after allegedly running a red light in Culver City.

“They are saying I ran a red light making a left-hand turn,” she said.

Neighbor Tina Kiehl was issued a similar ticket in Canoga Park.

“Mine was an improper right turn on a red light,” she explained.

Both were hit with red light camera citations, and both said they’re seeking legal advice on contesting them — and both have been confused over whether they need to do anything about their tickets at all.

“Was told that they weren’t being enforced, that if I want to just ignore it that nothing would happen to me,” Kiehl said.

In LA County, that appears to be true. The NBC4 I-Team has learned that many attorneys are advising drivers to toss their red light camera citations in the trash, because of a new enforcement policy set in LA County Superior Court.

“It will not go on your credit report, the DMV will not be notified,” said Jay Beeber, executive director of driver advocacy group Safer Streets LA, which opposes red-light cameras.

Beeber said that over the past few years, LA County has quietly adopted a new policy not to pursue red light ticket recipients who don’t respond to mailed citations.

“They will not come and arrest you, there will not be a warrant out for your arrest and there will not be any affect on your credit,” Beeber said.

A spokesperson for LA County’s Superior Court confirmed to the NBC4 I-Team that while they’d “prefer” that drivers pay their tickets, when they’re no-shows at court, there’s no way for courts to legally confirm the identities of people photographed in red-light camera citations.
So, if you ignore a ticket, while a $300 dollar fine will be assessed against you in the court record, it won’t go on your credit report, there won’t be a warrant issued for your arrest and the court won’t ask the DMV to place a hold on your license.

The lack of a more concrete policy makes drivers like Kiehl and Glenn nervous.

“I’m the kind of person that would worry about whether or not the advice I was given was accurate,” Kiehl said.

So Kiehl paid an attorney several hundred dollars to take the case to court, and her ticket was dismissed.

Glenn is still awaiting her day in court for the citation she received in Culver City, where the county’s policy on pursuing payment for these tickets appears to be evident.

According to information obtained by the I-Team, between January 2014 and August 2015, the Culver City Police Department issued 36,693 red light camera tickets. But during that time, the department confirms, no warrants were issued for nonpayment and no arrests were made.

It is important to note that the enforcement varies between different legal jurisdictions. Last year, the city of Riverside halted enforcement of its red-light camera program. In May, the city of Beverly Hills decided to bring back its red-light camera program after months of dormancy.

In most of Orange County, a driver’s record will be affected by nonpayment, so it is important to know the rules depending on where a ticket is issued.

Kiehl and Glenn said they wonder why the cameras are still in use at all, if the LA County court doesn’t consider the tickets worth pursuing.

“I’d like to see them taken down. Take them down,” Glenn said.

Kiehl agreed.

“If they are not going to enforce them, then they should stop issuing the tickets,” she said.

For more information about red-light cameras, visit this crowdsourced website.

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