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California Committee Would Give Photo Ticket Points To Non-Drivers
California Assembly Judiciary Committee considers bill to eliminate due process for red light camera tickets.

Assemblyman Bob WieckowskiOwners of vehicles registered in California could have their license suspended for red light running violations, even if they never get behind the wheel of their cars. Under a bill considered by the state Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, red light camera tickets would be turned into administrative violations that hold the owner responsible for $500 and license points for violations committed by others.

"The registered owner of the vehicle shall be liable for payment of any civil penalty assessed for the automated violation if the registered owner is unable to identify the person who was the driver of the vehicle at the time of the automated violation," Assembly Bill 666 states.

A license point -- four points is sufficient to trigger a license suspension -- would be imposed on the owner if he is unable or unwilling to reveal the identity of the driver. This would apply to husbands unwilling to turn in their wives, and wives unwilling to turn in their husbands. Ordinarily, California's evidence code Section 970 prohibits the state from forcing a married person from testifying against his spouse, but this protection would not apply to AB666.

Under current state law, a large percentage of tickets end up being dismissed because the state must positively identify the driver before imposing a penalty -- something that is difficult to do from photographs that often are unclear. Photo ticket recipients are also entitled to full due process of law in an actual courtroom. Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) introduced the bill on behalf of the traffic camera industry to replace the system with a streamlined administrative process.

Wieckowski's bill establishes hearing system where a vehicle owner's guilt or innocence would be determined by an employee of the city or county that set up the red light camera program. The hearings would not follow the evidence code, but they would instead operate under rules set by the city. The hearing officer would not be a judge, or even a lawyer necessarily. Anyone who has undergone between 8 and 20 hours of training would qualify.

"Training programs may include topics relevant to the administrative hearing, including, but not limited to, applicable laws and regulations, enforcement procedures, due process, evaluation of evidence, hearing procedures, and effective oral and written communication," AB666 states.

The bill also does away with the possibility of legal challenges by declaring the existence of a red light camera ticket as sufficient evidence for conviction.

"The issuing agency shall not be required to produce any evidence other than the notice of automated violation or copy thereof, including the photograph of the vehicle's license plate, and information received from the Department of Motor Vehicles identifying the registered owner of the vehicle," AB666 states.

A coalition opposed to the legislation, Stop AB666, has called for a "Day of Protest" against the bill today.

Source: Assembly Bill 666 (California Legislature, 3/19/2013)

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