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Most people would appreciate a "voluntary" traffic ticket--but Los Angeles residents who got expensive red-light traffic citations are up in arms after paying out cash for what L.A. now claims to be volunteer program of sorts. It's a pretty creative way of saying 'we don't want reimburse motorists who already paid'.
Los Angeles city has officially ditched red light cameras -- but other cities in the county are still issuing those citations. Beverly Hills in L.A. county says it wants to increase cameras for red light or photo ticket enforcement. Yet it seems photo tickets or citations in Los Angeles county aren't quite enforceable, at least that's what the Superior Court and city traffic operations says.
Los Angeles, Caifornia, has just ditched controversial red-light camera enforcement that's been in place for many years. That shutdown of camera lights will only apply to the city -- not to the entire county -- to the chagrin of residents in spots like Beverly Hills that plans to actually up the number of red-light cameras. But through the whole decision-making process of whether that photographic evidence should stay or go, there's yet another controversy that has the recipients of citations irate. Especially those who thought they needed to pay.
It's a normal 'thought' that a citation would be enforceable -- and kind of a requirement for drivers to pay in full. And tens of thousands of people have paid the Los Angeles red-light citations that run about $476 bucks each. But it turns out those red-light traffic cameras weren't quite as enforceable as Los Angeles drivers may have assumed -- and it's creating a backlash of upset California drivers who already stripped that cash from their wallets, to pay tickets.
It's a little-known fact that those red-light fines are technically voluntary -- as those cities in L.A. county probably hope 'offenders' continue to send in that cash. Supposedly Los Angeles city officials didn't know the camera tickets hae proven next-to impossible to legally enforce -- specifically because L.A. courts find the citations a bit impossible to prove. One of the most common defenses in red-light citations had been the argument that the car's driver -- and photo of that driver when the camera snapped a picture -- is not the registered owner. But there's another argument, and ruling, by the Los Angeles Superior Court.
So what's the real reason Los Angeles is getting rid of red light cameras and related tickets? One of the main reasons the city decided to boot its red light camera enforcement program isn't simply because the cameras haven't been proven to reduce car accidents: The city claims one of the biggest reason it's killing the camera progam is because of a ruling by Los Angeles courts that says red light violations -- snapped by photo -- are not enforceable because there is no live witness to testify against an alleged offender (a.k.a. driver). No police officer is on-site to make a driver sign any promise to appear in court. Instead red-light camera tickets are simply mailed to the vehicle's registered owner of the car or vehicle that's allegedly committed a violation.
And that means the Los Angeles County Superior Court isn't so keen on pursuing or enforcing camera ticket collections for the city or its 32 other photo enforcement programs that currently exist throughout Los Angeles County. The L.A. Superior Court has decided the court will not notify the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of any "pre-conviction" pertaining to unpaid camera tickets -- which would or could lead to holds placed on California driver's licenses and vehicle registration renewals.
It all makes things a bit confusing, as Beverly Hills -- part of Los Angeles county -- is announcing that not only will the city not get rid of its cameras, it plans to increase the number of red-light photographers. Simultaneously the traffic operations department claims cameras throughout Los Angeles county are not enforceable. So, it would seem, ticket recipients in Beverly Hills are also not required to pay red-light violations -- along with the rest of the L.A. county.
While the Los Angeles court may try to obtain payment for tickets by using collection agencies, a failure to pay the citation does not show up on personal credit reports -- and that policy applies to camera tickets received throughout Los Angeles County according to the court's senior administrator for traffic operations.
But here's where things get sticky: If a camera ticket recipient decides to head to court and subsequently receives a court order to pay a fine related to the citation, the California driver will be pursued for non-payment in the same way as other moving violations. Drivers who go to court could get high penalties and even a suspended license if they've got a court ruling that says they must pay. It seems the best course of action is simply not to respond.
Of more than 250,000 red-light camera tickets issued in Los Angeles county just last year in 2010, about 60% of drivers paid the citations that can't really be legally pursued and remain unenforceable as far as the Superior Court is concerned.
For an average $476 per citation, that's about $72 million dollars coughed up to the county by Los Angeles camera-ticket recipients whom have paid those photo or red-light fines received last year.
About 25% of drivers who didn't pay at first did eventually 'donate' that money to L.A. after receiving collections notices by mail.
As outlandish as it is, the 'voluntary' red light camera program becomes even more bizarre and still confusing for ticket recipients in one part of Beverly Hills: Franklin Park. While L.A. ditches red light cameras and says cameras in its 32 other cities are not enforceable, the park system has created its own bizarre system that is legally being battled in court. MRCA says it has the right to issue camera tickets at stop signs within the Beverly Hills park. It wants $175 per ticket, or citation for a blown or "rolling stop" -- and those who battle the tickets don't even get a court date. MRCA says citation recipients have to go back to (get this) the park itself in order to argue against the citations. There's arguments those tickets aren't legal -- and even a class action lawsuit currently being fought over the MRCA citations.
As for the rest of L.A. that doesn't exist in Franklin Park: Apparently nearly half -- or at least 40%-percent of drivers who got red light tickets got away with not paying the associated fine, the reason Los Angeles chose to dump the cameras altogether. Nearly one-fifth of the nation has already banned the use of red-light cameras as a form of traffic enforcement, and L.A. is estimated to save about $1,000,000 million dollars in shutting down and ridding the city of cameras.
While proponents for the traffic cameras have argued the intersection devices could save lives, studies have shown an equal incident of accidents -- or even more accidents, as drivers try to push through the intersection as quickly as possible in efforts to avoid a pricey ticket. The result in some cities: Rear-end collisions and accidents. And what many people don't know: Those cameras are notorious for snapping photos of rolling right-hand turns as one of the most common violations, instead of photographing the far more dangerous activity of running stop lights.
The newly-revealed 'fact', that paying red-light traffic citations has been dubbed 'voluntary', has got L.A. masses very angry. Red-light camera offenses rank among the most expensive fines in California. And people who have already paid those tickets want their money back. For those whom have sent in the funds, don't expect to be getting money back. The city of Los Angeles says that's a 'no-go': L.A. is not issuing refunds for paid violations.
Says Paul Koretz of the Los Angeles City Council: "If you paid the fine, you paid the fine. If you didn't pay the fine, you were pretty much able to get away with it." And, it appears, you still can throughout L.A. county.
Just don't expact everything to be stress-free. There's still reports that, despite the Superior Court's lack of enforcement, some auto insurance companies have still threatened drivers with upped insurance rates over alleged red-light or photo violations. But threats are nothing new.