BILL ANALYSIS Ó 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 SB 1303 (SIMITIAN) Page 2 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, SB 1303 (SIMITIAN) Page 3 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 SB 1303 (SIMITIAN) Page 4 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. SB 1303 (SIMITIAN) Page 5 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. SB 1303 (SIMITIAN) Page 6 POSITIONS: (Communicated to the committee before noon on Wednesday, March 21, 2012) SUPPORT: None received. OPPOSED: None received.