The red light camera ticketing program may be dead in the areas surrounding Culver City, but the fines are still very much alive—forcing those that were hit with fines ranging from $250 to $400 must pay them. The Los Angeles City Council voted to turn off the cameras last month.
“All pending red light traffic camera tickets are being treated like every [other] traffic ticket,” said Richard French, spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department. “Not paying them will run the risk of any traffic violation as in higher fees, restrictions and other consequences,” he said.
Here in Culver City, the will continue to be in operation, according to a statement the Culver City Police Department released in late July.
Nonetheless, many Los Angelenos have taken the program's early retirement as a chance to fight the fines. According to a recent story in the Los Angeles Times, only about 60 percent of those who gets tickets actually pay them; approximately 256,000 red light cameras were issued in 2010.
Traffic ticket attorney Sherman Ellison is calling on the Los Angeles City Council to grant amnesty for violators, according to a statement from his law firm. The attorney says this is because there is confusion in the write-up of the law. Ellison is also representing a Culver City client who received a citation for running a red light at Washington and Helms Avenue—the attorney alleges that the city did not provide adequate notice to residents when they instituted the red light on that corner in 2006. Culver City News identifies the client as Stephen Gray.
Said Ellison in an interview with Culver City Patch: "Culver City cannot prove that the red light program increases safety for the motoring public."
Ellison said with a speeding ticket, the person has to sign it, making the ticket a contract. The red light tickets from Los Angeles cameras are mailed to the registered owner of the photographed vehicle. Since there is no signed contract, a person can choose not to pay the fine well past the due date with little to no consequence.
“If someone is a good citizen and they were to voluntarily pay the $400 to $500 fine, and someone else who thinks the system is unjust and ignores the fine that the first person has to pay while the other receives no penalty … the disconnect is totally confusing to the impacted population,” Ellison stated in the release, adding, “This whole situation should be cleaned up by granting amnesty.”
A major reason for the Los Angeles City Council’s decision to end the program is because of the difficulty in collecting the fines. Even though some people have opposed the red light camera program due to its $1.5 million cost (including local Councilman Bill Rosendahl), there are those who don't support the amnesty idea, according to an article in The Argonaut.
However, while Ellison would like to see the amnesty rule introduced, he stated he is not advising people to not pay their fines.
“There are tens of thousands of people in Los Angeles who are dealing with red light camera tickets and have no idea what to do,” Ellison stated in his release. “Every day my office gets dozens of phone calls from people needing help and asking questions. I try to give my clients an accurate account of the current state of the approach of the Superior Court when it comes to this issue. I don't tell them not to pay the fine.”
A version of this article first appeared on Brentwood Patch.