BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






           SENATE TRANSPORTATION & HOUSING COMMITTEE       BILL NO: ab 432
          SENATOR MARK DESAULNIER, CHAIRMAN              AUTHOR:  HALL
                                                         VERSION: 6/21/11
          Analysis by:  Erin Riches                      FISCAL:  yes
          Hearing date:  July 5, 2011



          SUBJECT:

          Traffic violations:  notice to appear

          DESCRIPTION:

          This bill provides that only a peace officer or qualified 
          employee of a law enforcement agency may issue a notice to 
          appear for specified traffic offenses, including those recorded 
          by an automated traffic enforcement system.  

          ANALYSIS:

          Existing law:

                  Provides that a government agency may equip an 
               intersection or other place where a driver is required to 
               respond to an official traffic control signal, with an 
               automated enforcement system, if the agency meets specified 
               requirements.

                  Provides that only a government agency, in cooperation 
               with a law enforcement agency, may operate an automated 
               enforcement system.  

                  Requires a government agency to maintain controls 
               necessary to ensure that citations may only be delivered to 
               violators if they have been reviewed and approved by law 
               enforcement.  

                  Authorizes a government agency to contract out most 
               operations related to the automated enforcement system, if 
               the agency maintains overall control and supervision of the 
               system.  

                  Provides that a contract between a governmental agency 
               and a manufacturer or supplier of automated enforcement 
               equipment may not include a provision for payment to the 




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               vendor based on the number of citations issued or amount of 
               revenue generated, as a result of the equipment unless the 
               contract was entered into prior to January 1, 2004.

                  Provides that a citation for a traffic offense results 
               in a written notice to appear, which must be on a form 
               prescribed by the Judicial Council and must include 
               specified information, including the name and address of 
               the registered owner of the vehicle identified in the 
               photograph, the license plate number of the vehicle, the 
               offense charged, and the time and place for the person to 
               appear in court.  

                  Provides that a notice to appear must be mailed within 
               15 days of the alleged violation to the current address of 
               the registered owner of the vehicle, with a certificate of 
               mailing obtained as evidence of service.

           This bill  :

                  Requires that only a peace officer or a qualified 
               employee of a law enforcement agency may serve a notice to 
               appear for specified traffic offenses involving failure to 
               respond to an official traffic control signal, including 
               those recorded by an automated traffic enforcement system.

                  Clarifies that the notice to appear, which must be 
               delivered by mail within 15 days to the current address of 
               the registered owner of the vehicle, must be accompanied by 
               a certificate of mailing obtained through the US Postal 
               Service as evidence of service.
               
                  Requires the notice to appear to be enclosed in "an 
               official envelope" of the issuing agency.  
               
          COMMENTS:

              1.   Purpose  .  According to the author, red light camera 
               companies send notices to appear to individuals who have 
               allegedly committed specified traffic offenses, but the 
               companies' out-of-state addresses cause confusion and often 
               result in individuals mistaking the notices for junk mail 
               and discarding them.  This bill would help ensure that 
               individuals who receive the notices understand that the 
               notice is an official document from a California law 
               enforcement agency.  




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               The author also notes that California courts are 
               experiencing difficulties in prosecuting alleged red light 
               camera violators because of inconsistencies in the process 
               from county to county.  Along with different envelopes, 
               some agencies send the notices to appear in certified mail, 
               while others do not.  This has resulted in a loss of 
               revenue for cities and counties.

              2.   Background .  The Legislature first authorized the use of 
               automated traffic enforcement systems, now commonly known 
               as red light cameras, under SB 1802 (Rosenthal), Chapter 
               1216, Statues of 1994, in order to record violations 
               occurring at rail crossing signals and gates.  
               Subsequently, SB 833 (Kopp), Chapter 922, Statutes of 1995, 
               authorized a three-year demonstration period to test the 
               use and effectiveness of similar systems in reducing the 
               incidence of drivers running red lights at roadway 
               intersections and in identifying the drivers and vehicles 
               involved in committing such violations.  Installation of 
               such systems was justified based on the rationale that 
               drivers running red lights are a serious traffic problem 
               with potentially dire results to other drivers and that 
               such violations are difficult for police officers to 
               witness and enforce at the time of the incident.

               After reviewing the operations and effectiveness of the 
               pilot program, the Legislature enacted SB 1136 (Kopp), 
               Chapter 54, Statutes of 1998, which authorized the use of 
               automated traffic enforcement systems at intersections.  AB 
               1022 (Oropeza), Chapter 511, Statutes of 2003, 
               significantly modified the law as a result of an audit by 
               the State Auditor that concluded that local governments 
               needed to exert more control over the operation of 
               automated traffic enforcement systems.

               Under current practice, local agencies contract with red 
               light camera vendors to capture images of vehicles that 
               fail to come to a complete stop at designated 
               intersections.  The vendors collect the images and screen 
               them to eliminate those that fail to show evidence that a 
               vehicle failed to make a complete stop.  The vendor sends 
               the remaining images to local law enforcement, where an 
               officer reviews the images and directs the vendor to send 
               notices to appear for those that clearly show violations.





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               The author argues that when vendors mail notices to appear, 
               some are successfully challenged in court, resulting in a 
               loss of revenue.  This bill corrects these problems by 
               clarifying that the notice to appear must be issued by a 
               police officer or other qualified employee of a law 
               enforcement agency.  

              3.   Arguments in Opposition  .  The League of California 
               Cities and the Police Chiefs Association argue that this 
               bill will increase costs to cities while failing to stem 
               confusion.  They argue that this bill will result in 
               increased costs to city police departments, which are 
               already stretched thin, for additional personnel hours and 
               new equipment purchases.  Cities would also have to take 
               their automated traffic enforcement systems off-line as 
               they transition responsibilities from the vendor the police 
               department staff.  

              4.   Related legislation  .  SB 29 (Simitian), which passed the 
               Assembly Transportation Committee on June 13, 2011, imposes 
               additional requirements on automated traffic enforcement 
               systems, including expanding the information that must be 
               included in the notice to appear to include clear 
               identification of the vendor and contact information for 
               the issuing agency.  SB 29 also clarifies that a government 
               agency must perform all duties specified by current law to 
               operate an automated traffic enforcement system, including 
               development of uniform guidelines for screening and issuing 
               violations.

              5.   Chaptering out amendments  .  This bill and SB 29 
               (Simitian) amend the same section of the Vehicle Code but 
               are otherwise not in conflict.  If these two bills continue 
               to move through the Legislature, the authors will need to 
               amend them to ensure that should both be signed into law, 
               the second bill signed does not chapter out the first.  

          Assembly Votes:
               Floor:    77-0
               Appr: 17-0
               Trans:    14-0

          POSITIONS:  (Communicated to the Committee before noon on 
          Wednesday,                                             June 29, 
          2011)





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               SUPPORT:  None received.
          
               OPPOSED:  California Police Chiefs Association
                         League of California Cities