BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                      



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          |SENATE RULES COMMITTEE            |                  SB 1303|
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                                 THIRD READING


          Bill No:  SB 1303
          Author:   Simitian (D)
          Amended:  5/29/12
          Vote:     21

           
           SENATE TRANSPORTATION & HOUSING COMMITTEE  :  8-0, 3/27/12
          AYES:  DeSaulnier, Gaines, Harman, Kehoe, Pavley, Rubio, 
            Simitian, Wyland
          NO VOTE RECORDED:  Lowenthal

           SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE  :  7-0, 4/30/12
          AYES:  Kehoe, Walters, Alquist, Dutton, Lieu, Price, 
            Steinberg


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

           SOURCE  :     Author


           DIGEST  :    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.

           Senate Floor Amendments  of 5/29/12 clarify validity of 
          evidence and what can be included in courtesy notices, 
          which are letters generally sent to violators who cannot be 
          identified.

           ANALYSIS  :    Existing law authorizes the use of automated 
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          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 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:


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           1. Requires 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. 

           2. Requires, 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.

           3. Requires 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:

             A.    The number of alleged violations captured by the 
                system and resulting citations.

             B.    The number of citations involving a vehicle 
                traveling straight through an intersection, turning 
                right, and turning left.

             C.    The number and percentage of citations that a 
                court dismisses.

             D.    The number of traffic collisions at each 
                intersection that occurred prior to and after the 
                installation of the system.

           4. 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.

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           5. 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.  Includes a "Notice of Nonliability" 
             form to replace courtesy notices sent by law enforcement 
             agencies, as specified.

           6. Requires that both a notice to appear (i.e., citation 
             or ticket) and a courtesy notice contain the following 
             information:

             A.    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.

             B.    The contact information of the issuing agency.

           7. 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.

           8. Clarifies that computer-generated and photographic 
             evidence stored by automated traffic enforcement systems 
             is presumed to represent accurately what it purports to 
             be unless evidence to the contrary is submitted.

           9. Specifies that evidence from automated traffic 
             enforcement systems is not hearsay.

           Comments  

          According to the author's office, this bill was introduced 
          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's office contends 

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          this bill is necessary to increase public confidence in the 
          purpose and fairness of red light camera operations.  The 
          author's office also suggests this bill will likely be 
          needed to address issues raised in two recent appellate 
          court decisions.

           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.

           Governor's veto  .  This bill is essentially the same as SB 
          29 (Simitian), which the Senate passed 38-0 on September 1, 
          2011, the Governor ultimately vetoed.  The Governor's veto 

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          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's office indicates they are in discussions with the 
          administration and expects to find a compromise that the 
          Governor can support.  The author's office 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.

           FISCAL EFFECT  :    Appropriation:  No   Fiscal Com.:  Yes   
          Local:  Yes

          According to the Senate Appropriations Committee:  

           Likely minor one-time costs to Judicial Council to 
            develop and adopt courtesy notice forms, and minor 
            ongoing costs to compile and maintain reports received 
            from operators of automated traffic enforcement systems 
            (Trial Court Trust Fund).

           Non-reimbursable local costs to post signage and develop 
            uniform guidelines and procedures by January 1, 2014.  
            Additional local costs related to the discretionary act 
            of installing future automated traffic enforcement 
            systems.

          JJA:dok  5/29/12   Senate Floor Analyses 

                       SUPPORT/OPPOSITION:  NONE RECEIVED

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