[UPDATED:] Does Ruling Doom Red Light Cameras?

UPDATE: As the attorney in the post below argues a court ruling may doom red-light cameras statewide, they may be permanently banned in Anaheim by November following a City Council vote Tuesday night. The Orange County Register has the scoop.

A Huntington Beach attorney believes a new appellate court ruling "may be a death sentence for red light cameras in California."

Allen Baylis, who has successfully fought red light camera cases in Santa Ana against his clients, points to "People of the State of California vs. Tarek Khaled," which was filed May 25 in Santa Ana Superior Court.

On Aug. 2, 2008, Santa Ana Police issued Khaled a traffic citation. At a subsequent traffic trial, the prosecution tried to admit a photo that purportedly showed Khaled running a red light at an intersection.

But Khaled sought to have the photograph declared inadmissible hearsay--since the cop who wrote the ticket did not actually see him run the red light--and a violation of his confrontation rights.

The trial judge disagreed, admitted the photo and Khaled lost.

The appellate panel disagreed with the trial judge, and reversed the judgment.

The justices reasoned the photo contained hearsay evidence as to the date, time and other information related to the alleged infraction. But, at trial, the prosecution produced no one from the private camera company who could provide relevant information to the case--and be subject to cross-examination by the defense.

"The person or persons who maintain the system did not testify," notes the decision. "No one with personal knowledge testified about how often the system is maintained. No one with personal knowledge testified about how often the date and time are verified and corrected. The custodian of records for the company that contracts with the city to maintain, monitor, store and disperse these photographs did not testify."

Prosecutors did offer up Officer Alan Berg, who wrote the citation based on the photo supplied by the company. Though Berg could provide general information on how the red-light system worked based on training he had received when the program first began, as the justices wrote, "he was unable to testify about the specific procedure for the programming and storage of the system information."

Just about everything prosecutors tried to argue to the contrary of this sentiment--including the implied trustworthiness of the private company--was knocked back by the justices because no one with intimate knowledge of the system ever testified.

The order, which is signed by Assistant Presiding Judge Gregg L. Prickett and judges Gregory H. Lewis and Karen L. Robinson, will presumably color future red-light camera cases--or open the door for a whole lot of government-reimbursed testimony by private company experts up and down the state.

Judging by the condition of local government coffers and the number of citations floating out there, Baylis may be onto something with his death sentence for red-light cameras.


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