BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






           SENATE TRANSPORTATION & HOUSING COMMITTEE       BILL NO: sb 1303
          SENATOR MARK DESAULNIER, CHAIRMAN              AUTHOR:  simitian
                                                         VERSION: 2/23/12
          Analysis by:  Eric Thronson                    FISCAL:  yes
          Hearing date:  March 27, 2012



          SUBJECT:

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

          DESCRIPTION:

          This bill changes the laws governing automated traffic 
          enforcement systems to ensure that red light camera programs 
          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, among other things, inspects and maintains 
          signs that warn drivers that an automated enforcement system is 
          in use.  These signs must either be visible to traffic 
          approaching an intersection where an automated enforcement 
          system operates or posted at all major entrances to a city such 
          as at freeways, bridges, and state highway routes.  

          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 




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          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, a Judicial Council form 
          that contains 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.  The law enforcement agency must mail the 
          notice to appear within 15 days of the alleged violation to the 
          current address of the registered owner of the vehicle.

           This bill  makes many substantive changes to statute governing 
          automatic traffic enforcement systems, including:

           Requiring a governmental agency to post signs identifying the 
            use of automated traffic enforcement within 200 feet of an 
            intersection where a system is operating, while eliminating 
            the option that allows an agency to post signs at all major 
            entrances to the city.  Agencies with systems in place as of 
            the effective date of this bill that have not already posted 
            signs in accordance with this provision must do so by January 
            1, 2014. 

           Requiring, for systems installed after January 1, 2013, 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.  At the same time, this bill expressly 
            prohibits a governmental agency from considering revenue 
            generation when it deliberates about whether to install and 
            operate an automated traffic enforcement system.

           Requiring the vendor, in cooperation with governmental 
            agencies that utilize its systems, to submit an annual report 
            to the Judicial Council 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 captured by the 
                 system and resulting citations,
               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 a court 
                 dismisses,




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               o      The number of traffic collisions at each 
                 intersection that occurred prior to and after the 
                 installation of the 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 court that it dismiss the case.

           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, 2014, courtesy notices must be on the Judicial 
            Council forms, which the Council shall develop in consultation 
            with the traffic and transportation committee of the 
            California Peace Officers' Association.  

           Requires that both a notice to appear (i.e., citation or 
            ticket) and a courtesy notice 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 or governmental agency from altering the 
            notice to appear, the courtesy notice, or any other Judicial 
            Council form.  If a governmental agency or vendor materially 
            alters the form, then the court may dismiss the case.

          
          COMMENTS:

           1.Purpose  .  The author introduced this bill to protect the 
            rights of Californians cited by automated traffic enforcement 
            systems.  To do so, this bill 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, and improves the means by which a 
            person may challenge citations issued in error.  The author 
            contends this bill is necessary to increase public confidence 




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            in the purpose and fairness of red light camera operations.  
            The author also suggests this bill will likely be needed to 
            address issues raised in two recent appellate court decisions.


           2.Recent court decisions  .  The 2nd District Court of Appeals in 
            Los Angeles has published two decisions recently concerning 
            automated traffic enforcement system evidence submitted to 
            convict violators of running red lights.  In February, a 
            three-judge panel on the appellate court ruled in People v. 
            Borzakian (2012) that an officer testifying in the case was 
            not qualified to authenticate video and picture evidence, 
            because the city has contracted for the maintenance and 
            operation of the automated traffic enforcement system and 
            therefore operating the system was not part of the ordinary 
            course of business for the police department.  The city's 
            evidence was not properly admitted because the officer could 
            not authenticate the videos and pictures, and without this 
            evidence, nothing supported the alleged violation.  The court 
            reversed Borzakian's conviction based on this finding.

             

             Later that month, in People v. Goldsmith (2012), a different 
            three-judge panel from the same appellate court came to a 
            different conclusion.  The panel determined that testimony on 
            the accuracy and reliability of computer systems isn't 
            required for photos or video to be admitted as evidence unless 
            alternative evidence is introduced casting doubt on the photo 
            or video's accuracy.  Because Goldsmith did not provide any 
            substantial evidence undermining the reliability of the video 
            and photographic evidence, the court concluded that the 
            evidence did not need to be authenticated and therefore upheld 
            the conviction.



            These conflicting decisions demonstrate a need for 
            clarification in statute regarding the evidentiary standards 
            required for prosecuting automated traffic enforcement 
            violations.  This bill currently does not include clarifying 
            language, but the author indicates that he intends to amend 
            this bill at some point to include such language.







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           3.Governor's veto  .  This bill is essentially the same as SB 29 
            (Simitian), which this committee passed last year 9 to 0 and 
            which the governor ultimately vetoed.  The governor's veto 
            message indicates that, while SB 29 standardizes rules for 
            local governments to follow when installing and maintaining 
            red light cameras, the governor feels this is something that 
            elected officials can and should oversee.  The author 
            indicates he is in discussions with the administration and 
            expects to find a compromise that the governor can support.  
            The author believes that, in light of the recent court rulings 
            and ensuing legal ambiguity, the governor may wish to sign a 
            bill that helps bring clarity to the prosecution of red light 
            violations while also increasing public confidence in the 
            purpose and fairness of red light camera operations.




































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          POSITIONS:  (Communicated to the committee before noon on 
                     Wednesday,
                     March 21, 2012)

               SUPPORT:  None received.

          
               OPPOSED:  None received.