BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






           SENATE TRANSPORTATION & HOUSING COMMITTEE       BILL NO: SB 29
          SENATOR MARK DESAULNIER, CHAIRMAN              AUTHOR:  Simitian
                                                         VERSION: 3/22/11
          Analysis by:  Jennifer Gress                   FISCAL:  yes
          Hearing date:  March 29, 2011



          SUBJECT:

          Automated traffic enforcement systems (i.e., red light cameras)

          DESCRIPTION:

          This bill makes several changes to the laws regarding automated 
          traffic enforcement systems to ensure that red light camera 
          programs are designed to maximize traffic safety and are 
          implemented in a lawful and transparent manner.

          ANALYSIS:

          Existing law authorizes the use of automated traffic enforcement 
          systems at railroad crossings and intersections to record 
          violations of unlawful grade crossings and red light running.  

          Only a governmental agency, in cooperation with a law 
          enforcement agency, may operate an automated enforcement system. 
           Under existing law, "operating" a system means that a 
          governmental agency does the following:

           Develops uniform guidelines for screening and issuing 
            violations, processing and storing confidential information, 
            and selecting locations where automated enforcement systems 
            will be utilized.

           Establishes procedures to ensure compliance with those 
            guidelines.

           Certifies that the equipment is properly installed and 
            calibrated and is operating properly.

           Ensures that the equipment is regularly inspected.

           Inspects and maintains signs that warn drivers that an 
            automated enforcement system is in use.  These signs must be 
            visible to traffic approaching an intersection where an 




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            automated enforcement system operates and clearly identify the 
            presence of the camera system at that intersection.

           Oversees the establishment or change of signal phases and 
            timing.  The yellow light change interval must be established 
            in accordance with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control 
            Devices, which is maintained by the California Department of 
            Transportation.

           Maintains controls necessary to assure that only those 
            citations that law enforcement personnel have reviewed and 
            approved are delivered to violators.

          A governmental agency may contract out its duties to certify 
          that the equipment is installed and operating properly and to 
          ensure that the equipment is regularly inspected, provided the 
          agency maintains overall control and supervision of the system.

          Prior to entering into a contract with a vendor to implement an 
          automated enforcement system, the legislative body of the local 
          government (e.g., city council or county board of supervisors) 
          must conduct a public hearing on the proposed use of the system. 
           A contract between a governmental agency and a vendor of 
          automated enforcement equipment may not include a provision for 
          payment to the vendor based on the number of citations issued or 
          the amount of revenue generated, unless the contract was entered 
          into prior to January 1, 2004.  

          Prior to issuing citations, an agency utilizing an automated 
          traffic enforcement system must make a public announcement of 
          the system and issue only warning notices for 30 days. A peace 
          officer or "qualified employee" of a law enforcement agency 
          reviews the photographs and issues citations, as appropriate.  A 
          citation results in a "notice to appear," which must be on a 
          form approved by the Judicial Council containing specific 
          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 violation charged, and the time 
          and place when the person may appear in court.  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.

          Existing law contains several provisions regarding the 
          confidentiality of information collected for purposes of issuing 
          citations for violations captured by an automated enforcement 
          system.  Photographic records produced by automated systems, as 




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          well as information obtained from the Department of Motor 
          Vehicles (DMV) are confidential and may only be used for traffic 
          enforcement purposes.  This information may be retained for up 
          to six months from the date the information was first obtained, 
          or until final disposition of the citation, whichever is later.  
          After that time, the information is to be destroyed in a manner 
          that preserves the confidentiality of the person whose 
          information had been obtained.

           This bill  :

           Specifies that a governmental agency must post signs within 
            200 feet of an intersection where a system is operating and 
            allows that the signs may be posted only in the direction in 
            which the system is used to issue citations, rather than 
            allowing an agency to post signs either at all major entrances 
            to the city or at intersections visible to traffic approaching 
            from all directions.  Governmental agencies with systems in 
            place as of the effective of this bill that have not already 
            posted signs in accordance with this bill must do so by 
            January 1, 2013. 

           Clarifies that a governmental agency must perform  all  of the 
            activities that current law specifies to operate an automated 
            traffic enforcement system (e.g., develop uniform guidelines 
            for screening and issuing violations, establish procedures to 
            ensure compliance, etc.). 

           Allows governmental agencies with systems in place as of the 
            effective date of the bill that have not already developed 
            uniform guidelines for screening and issuing violations, for 
            the process and storage of confidential information, or for 
            selecting locations where an automated enforcement system may 
            be used to do so by January 1, 2013. 

           Allows governmental agencies with systems in place as of the 
            effective date of the bill that have not already established 
            procedures for compliance with its guidelines to do so by 
            January 1, 2013.

           Requires, for systems installed after January 1, 2012, a 
            governmental agency to make and adopt a "finding of fact" that 
            the system is needed at a specified location for reasons 
            related to safety.

           Prohibits a governmental agency from considering revenue 




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            generation beyond recovering the actual costs of operating the 
            system when it considers whether to install and operate an 
            automated traffic enforcement system.

           Provides that if, after a law enforcement agency has issued a 
            citation, the citing officer determines that the citation or 
            notice should be dismissed, the citing agency may recommend in 
            writing to the magistrate or the judge that the case be 
            dismissed.  The recommendation must include the reasoning for 
            the recommendation and be filed with the court.

           Requires that a notice to appear (i.e., citation or ticket) 
            include the following information:

               o      The methods by which the registered owner of the 
                 vehicle or the alleged violator may view and discuss with 
                 the issuing agency, both by telephone and in person, the 
                 evidence used to substantiate the violation.
               o      The contact information of the issuing agency.
               o      Information that clearly and conspicuously 
                 identifies the vendor with which the governmental agency 
                 contracts for the operation of the system.

           Permits the issuing agency and the vendor to issue "courtesy 
            notices" to the registered owner of the vehicle or the alleged 
            violator prior to issuing a notice to appear.  Beginning on 
            January 1, 2013, courtesy notices must be on a form approved 
            by the Judicial Counsel, which must be developed in 
            consultation with the traffic and transportation committee of 
            the California Peace Officers' Association.  The courtesy 
            notice must contain the following information:

               o      The methods by which the registered owner of the 
                 vehicle or the alleged violator may view and discuss with 
                 the issuing agency, both by telephone and in person, the 
                 evidence used to substantiate the violation.
               o      The contact information of the issuing agency.
               o      Information that clearly and conspicuously 
                 identifies the vendor with which the governmental agency 
                 contracts for the operation of the system.

           Prohibits a vendor from altering the notice to appear, the 
            courtesy notice, or any other form approved by the Judicial 
            Council.  If a form is found to have been materially altered, 
            the citation based on the altered form may be dismissed.





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           Requires the issuing agency or the vendor, when contacting the 
            registered owner of a vehicle prior to issuing a notice to 
            appear in an effort to determine the identity of the driver, 
            to state in a clear and prominent fashion that the registered 
            owner is not required to provide the information and that 
            failure to provide the information will not result in 
            additional responsibility or liability associated with the 
            alleged violation.

           Requires the vendor of an automated traffic enforcement 
            system, in cooperation with governmental agencies that utilize 
            such systems, to submit an annual report to the Judicial 
            Counsel that includes the following information, provided the 
            information is "in the possession of, or readily available 
            to," the vendor:

               o      The number of alleged violations collected from the 
                 automated traffic enforcement system.
               o      The number of citations issued by a law enforcement 
                 agency based on information collected from the automated 
                 traffic enforcement system.
               o      The number of citations involving a vehicle 
                 traveling straight through an intersection, turning 
                 right, and turning left.
               o      The number and percentage of citations that are 
                 dismissed.
               o      The number of traffic collisions at each 
                 intersection that have occurred prior to and after the 
                 installation of the system.
          
          COMMENTS:


           1.Purpose  .  In response to the author's annual "There Oughta Be 
            A Law" contest last year, one constituent, Vera Gil, reported 
            that she had been mis-identified several times by red light 
            cameras located in Southern California.  The vehicle captured 
            in the photograph was not hers, she was not the driver 
            identified in the photo, and she had not traveled to Southern 
            California where the violation was recorded.  Because private 
            companies are involved in the issuance of tickets from red 
            light camera systems, it sometimes took Ms. Gil many steps to 
            demonstrate her innocence.  

            Ms. Gil's experience prompted the author to investigate how 
            red light camera programs were being implemented around the 




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            state.  This bill is the product of that investigation.



            Three red light camera vendors operate automated traffic 
            enforcement programs in California:  Redflex, American Traffic 
            Solutions (ATS), and Affiliated Computer Systems (ACS).  Each 
            vendor has its own business model that it tailors to meet the 
            preferences and needs of the local agencies with which it 
            contracts.  As a result, there is tremendous variation in how 
            red light cameras programs are administered throughout the 
            state.  Examples of program elements that may vary include 
            whether the vendor or the law enforcement agency screens 
            incidents captured by the system, the criteria used to screen 
            incidents, what kinds of notices are mailed to alleged 
            violators, which entity mails the notices, what information is 
            included on the notice, and how intersections are identified 
            for use of automated enforcement.  Even something as seemingly 
            straightforward as defining what constitutes a red light 
            violation may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.   



            In addition to the variation found in program administration, 
            there is not consistent agreement about what current law 
            actually requires to operate an automated traffic enforcement 
            system.  Furthermore, the processes by which an alleged 
            violator may learn about and contest a citation are sometimes 
            unclear and, in certain cases, appear to be misleading.  For 
            example, sometimes the notice to appear was modified, which 
            current law requires to be on a form approved by the Judicial 
            Council, to serve purposes not addressed by current law.  
            These modified forms appeared official, but lacked the force 
            of law. 

           

            The intent of this bill is to protect the rights of 
            Californians cited by automated traffic enforcement systems.  
            In doing so, it prohibits the use of automated systems for the 
            purpose of raising revenue, requires that governmental 
            agencies demonstrate a safety need when approving the use of 
            such systems, requires that local governments using these 
            systems establish policies and procedures that help ensure 
            citations are properly and appropriately issued, and improves 
            the means by which a person may challenge citations issued in 




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            error.



           2.Related legislation  .  This bill is similar to the final 
            version of SB 1362 (Simitian) of last year, which was 
            ultimately held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  
            This committee passed SB 1362 last year 7 to 0 and while SB 
            1362 continued to address the same issues as the version this 
            committee had passed, the measure evolved considerably as it 
            progressed through the Legislature and some provisions were 
            scaled back.  For this reason, this bill is very similar in 
            concept to what this committee passed last year, but numerous 
            provisions, large and small, have either been amended or 
            deleted altogether.  



          3.Technical amendments  .  Due to Legislative Counsel drafting 
            errors, the author or committee may wish to make the following 
            amendments:

                 Page 3, line 17 after "2012" delete ","
                 Page 7, line 18 after "agency" delete "," and insert "or 
               the"
                 Page 7, line 18 after "manufacturer" delete "," and 
               insert "or"
          

           POSITIONS:  (Communicated to the Committee before noon on 
                     Wednesday,                              March 23, 
                     2011)

          SUPPORT:   None received.

          
          OPPOSED:   None received.













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