Hearsay: A red-light ticket defense?

If you've ever received a red light camera ticket, you know the sting of the fine. But some legal experts say a new court ruling may help get drivers off the hook.
In a flash you're caught on camera, running a red light.  Weeks later you're left holding a hefty $430 ticket.  "For most people $50 would be enough to say oh my gosh I can't do that," says defense attorney Kyle Humphrey. 

"It is hard to fight the ticket because the evidence is right there in front of you," says Bakersfield Police Sergeant Mary DeGeare.

For years, drivers have been debating whether red light cameras are accurate and fair.  Now a court ruling may back the doubters up.  "You have a picture that allegedly identifies a particular person.  The picture doesn't speak for itself.  You have to have someone come in and say this picture was taken at this time at this place of this person," added Humphrey. 

Local defense attorney Kyle Humphrey talked to us about a May court decision in which a Santa Ana judge threw out a red light ticket because no one with personal knoweldge of how the cameras work testified in court.  "Without the witness, the picture and it's content are hearsay," added Humphrey. 

But if you think you might get off the hook that easy, think again.  The BPD says things are done differently here because every time tickets from these traffic cameras are contested, they send an officer to court.  "He will go to court, and he will testify about how the system operates and he came to posess the evidence against the person," added Sgt. DeGeare. 

But legal analysts say expect more people to start using hearsay as a defense.  And expect more cities and counties to shell out money to have officers or the camera operators testify in court.

The city of Santa Ana is renegotiating its contract with the company that maintains its red light cameras.  City council members there are considering making that company provide free experts to testify at trial as part of that contract extension.
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