San Francisco Red Light Camera Tickets

UPDATE 10/19/2005: 9 months after the ticket, I got the appeal decision in the mail. I won!

Like many cities in California, San Francisco has been using Automated Enforcement Systems (a.k.a. “Red Light Cameras”) at many of its intersections for several years now. Although the stated purpose is (of course) for safety, the real reason is revenue. If you are the unlucky recipient of one of the citations in the mail (as yours truly recently was) then this website is for you. It explains your options and relates my experience with the San Francisco court system.

Your choices:

  • The picture isn’t of you. The registered owner is who gets sent the ticket. If the picture is not of you, sign the attached affidavit saying that the picture isn’t of you. Don’t lie — you’re saying under the penalty of purjury that it’s not you in the ticket. DO NOT, however, TELL THEM WHO IS IN THE PICTURE. It’s their job to figure that out, not yours. Don’t rat out your friends and family.
  • Pay it. If $371 is worth less to you than a lost morning in court, then just pay the ticket and move on. You may or may not want to do traffic school to keep the points from appearing on your license. While I’ve never done it myself, I hear the on-line version of traffic school is fairly painless.
  • Trial + Traffic school. This is probably the best option for most people. Go to the clerk.  Post bail (the amount of your ticket) and plead not-guilty.  Get a time for trial. SHOW UP ON TIME. When the court session starts, the clerk will allow you to have your fine reduced to only $50 if you take traffic school (with a $30 fee). For a total of $80, you’re done and the points are not added to your license. NOTE: If you’ve already done traffic school in the past 18 months, you’re not eligible to do it again. Sorry.
  • Plead not-guilty. Lots of options here. You can skip the arraignment and demand your right to a speedy trial (within 45 days) by going to the clerk and posting the $371 bond. Sometimes, due to the short notice, the officer isn’t properly subpoenaed and won’t know that he/she needs to testify against you (this happened in my case). If the officer doesn’t appear to testify, your case is dismissed. Or, the officer could already be in court to testify against other people and will realize that she needs to testify against you too, and will testify anyway (yep, this happened to me).Or, you can go to your arraignment and plead not-guilty there. This gives you the chance to make pre-trial motions. This makes the process very drawn-out — expect your trial date to be many months in the future.

Pleading not-guilty

NOTE WELL: This takes a lot of time and will really try your patience. DO NOT EXPECT TO WIN. In fact, you should expect to lose. Sorry, but the trial court for traffic and other infractions in San Francisco assumes GUILT. Moreover, the red light camera systems are considered infallible and therefore beyond reproach. AGAIN, YOU WILL LOSE.

Don’t waste your time

  • People often say that with traffic cases you should plead not-guilty and take your chances that the officer won’t show up. (If the officer doesn’t show up, your case is immediately dismissed.) I would agree with this strategy for all non-red light camera tickets. However, from what I can tell, the officers assisting with the red light camera prosecutions do not have normal police “beats”, and instead have a desk job, probably in the same building. This means they have a high liklihood of showing up.
  • If you are planning to contend that you don’t run red lights, you are a safe driver, and you’ve never done it before, do not waste your time. (Most murderers haven’t murdered anyone before, either.) You will be found GUILTY. Your fine will be lowered to $300, but they won’t grant you traffic school. You are better off taking the $80 buy-off deal mentioned above.
  • If you are planning to contend that the light was really yellow and the camera was wrong or broken, DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME. You will be found GUILTY. I promise. Don’t forget the the cameras are considered infallible by the trial court judge. Even if it was broken!

Argue the law

While the cameras themselves might be considered infallible, the city has errored in the way they are set up and operated. You should expect to LOSE at trial even if you object to the evidence on these grounds. HOWEVER, these MAY help you get your ticket overturned in appeal. That’s right, if you want any chance of winning, you will have to APPEAL. This takes a lot of time and energy. If you’re fed up and willing to put in the time it takes to appeal, then go ahead and plead not-guilty. Otherwise, don’t waste your time and take the $80 buy-out deal.

What to do:

  • Buy the book Fight Your Ticket in California from Nolo Press. Make sure you get thee one specifically for California.
  • Go to the Hall of Justice (850 Bryant St.) with a copy of your citation many weeks before your trial. Parking hint: You can park on 6th street after 9am. so show up at 8:59 and you’ll have all the free parking you want. Otherwise you might have to pay the garages that charge $6 for the first 1/2 hour. Go to the 5th floor, turn right at the hallway, and go to the end. This is the Police Legal department. Tell the friendly officers (really, they have always been very friendly in this office) that you want to fill out an “Informal discovery request”. They will give you a short form. Fill it out, and the City’s “Photo prosecution packet” will be sent to you. This is exactly what they will present at trial, which is always a good thing to have beforehand.


(For a good overview of many of these issues, read

  • The city has not property issued warning tickets as required by 21455.5. CVC (California vehicle code) 21455.5 allows cities to put up Automated Enforcement Systems if they follow the guidelines set forth in the statue. One of the statutes is that “Prior to issuing citations under this section, a local jurisdiction utilizing an automated traffic enforcement system shall commence a program to issue only warning notices for 30 days.” While most cities (I believe San Francisco is included) took this to mean warning tickets only needed to be issued 30 days before the first camera in a city, a recent court ruling in Southern California mandated that EACH camera is succeptible to the 30-day rule. At trial, I suggest asking the prosecution’s witness (the officer) if they issued only warning tickets for the first 30 days of YOUR camera’s operation.
  • CVC 21455.5 also has very strict requirement with respect to intersection signage. 21455.5(a) basically says the city has to label an AES-enabled intersection from all sides. There is one exception: if they choose not to label the intersection from all sides, then it can “posts signs at all major entrances to the city, including, at a minimum, freeways, bridges, and state highway routes.” Note that San Francisco DOES NOT post the required signs on major city entrances like bridges, freeways, and state highway routes. Instead, they choose to label major freeway exits. This is not compliant with the letter or the spirit of the law. While some AES-enforced intersections ARE labeled with signage in all direction, many are completely un-labeled meaning the city is falling back on the fact that they think they’ve labeled the “freeways, bridges, and state highway routes”. If you bring this up at trial (as I did) expect to LOSE. By bringing it up at trial, though, you can use it in your appeal.
  • Interesting pre-trial motions. Present them at your arraignment. They probably won’t work, but might be useful ammunition during your appeal.
    • Try to subpoena the camera’s “source code”. The camera is more than a camera. It’s a computer. You have the right to question your accuser in court. Your accuser is this computer. You should have the right to know exactly how it is programmed. If this motion is granted, you will probably never see the “source code” (it’s a trade secret) and therefore I would expect the prosecution to drop the charges. It’s worth a shot. It will probably help your case if you know how (ie have the credentials) to interpet any “source code” that you might receive.
  • The camera is disallowed under California’s “Speed trap” laws. This is a very interesting one, and will take further research. CVC 40801 forbids speed traps in California. “What does this have to do with Red Light Cameras?” you might ask. Well, let me tell you. CVC 40801 says “No peace officer or other person shall use a speed trap in arresting, or participating or assisting in the arrest of, any person for any alleged violation of this code nor shall any speed trap be used in securing evidence as to the speed of any vehicle for the purpose of an arrest or prosecution under this code.” CVS 40802 says “A particular section of a highway measured as to distance and with boundaries marked, designated, or otherwise determined in order that the speed of a vehicle may be calculated by securing the time it takes the vehicle to travel the known distance.” What does this mean to you? Well, the Red Light Computer decided to take a picture of you because you were headed for the intersection at a rate of speed high enough to assume that you were going to go past the ‘stop line’. It knew this because there are coils of wire in the pavement in each lane that are a set distance apart. It calculated your speed by securing the time it takes your vehicle to travel the known distance. Sound familiar? CVC 40801 now says they can’t use this evidence to prosecute you. But they did anyway, and now you have grounds to fight it. I didn’t try this angle, but I have a feeling you’ll LOSE if you do. But I want to hear about how it went, so write to me.

I’d love to hear from you. Write to me at aren /at/ thesandersens dotcom with your experiences.

933 thoughts on “San Francisco Red Light Camera Tickets

  1. So what are the percentage chances that I will get a red light camera ticket if I stopped right at the second line. I overshot the first line(crosswalk) but i came to a stop at the second. I saw the flashes go off. I was driving a rental car in downtown SF and I checked for a citation. This website is run by ATS for all major rental car companies. It has been more than 2 weeks and I dont see anything on there. Just wanted to check from your experience on these kind of cases, since I got one of those in LA about a year back and they are horribly expensive to pay.. Thanks for all your time and responses!

  2. Forgot to mention that the one that I got in LA was a full violation and I completely ran the light and crossed the intersection. Thanks!

  3. Hi –

    I am going to trail tomorrow. I was photographed WB at 9th and Howard turning right at an intersection where it is legal to turn right on red. I yielded to make the turn and proceeded on the yellow as it was turning to red. What kills me is if I was .5 of second slower or faster, I would not have this ticket. This proves nothing for safety and only strengthens the evidence that these cameras are revenue generators for a cash strapped state. The fine amount is $480.

    After my arraignment, I spent the afternoon at 845 Bryant watching how trials proceed. Right from the start over 50% of the cases where dismissed because the officer didn’t show up. Then about 5 cases were dismissed because the cop felt the photo was not clear enough to prove guilt and then the remaining cases- about 25 -30 people with varying ticket violations – where all found guilty. And of those 25 – 30 people, there were probably ten red light camera ticket cases.

    The judge even commented on a red camera ticket issued from the Fell and Masonic intersection – she said the plea that the signage is blocked by trees has been entered a lot and that even she has driven to this intersection to see how bad it is and then she said “guilty”. And everyone who begged her traffic school or a lower fine was denied.

    After observing this day in court – I learned:
    – plead not guilty at the arraignment if you truly feel you didn’t do anything wrong. Take a gamble with the odds that the cop will not show up.

    – you will most likely lose if you have to go through the trial process. I actually expect to lose tomorrow if the cop shows up.

    – they give you 3 changes to plead guilty and take the traffic school buy out. The first is at your arraignment where they lower the fine by an insultingly nominal amount and offer traffic school (and they are real bullies about this so don’t be intimidated, because you get another chance at least at traffic school), the second time is right before your trail but this time they only offer the option of traffic school and you have to pay the full fine amount and the 3rd and last time before they start calling out the names of who is going to be tried that day (this is when you hope the cop is not there). I think because in the eyes of the court, they have given you the chance to lower the fine and take school already that asking for mercy once you are on trial, is too late. At least this is what happened with the judge I watched last month.

    My plan is to bring documentation from the CA drivers handbook about the legal way to make a right hand turn on amber. To ask the camera guy they make stand next to the cop the frame rate of the video and to argue that any object entering from the bottom of a video screen will always appear fast because you are not expecting it. And if these cameras record any faster than 29.97FPM, I am going to argue that my driving will look faster than it is ( I was clocked at 17MPH, I drive a jeep which is like a giant log on wheels and high speed turns will tank the thing), that I did everything to make sure I was safely proceeding through the intersection (shoulder check, scan for pedestrians etc). I will NOT admit guilt in some “throw myself on the mercy of the court” way because no one cares, and if you say you did something wrong, then you are guilty (a lot of people did this at the trails I watched – I sympathize you are trying to be nice and beg, but you are saying you made a mistake which = guilt)

    But above all I am going to get there early, read the name tags on all the cops that come in and hope to hell my officer doesn’t show up because if they do, I will most certain be guilty. And if they do and I see their name tag before it is too late, I am going to pay the full fine and take traffic school. Even though my picture is totally blurry, I have a spotless driving record, and I am certain I made a safe, legal turn that no cop would pull me over for. because I also know that $480 bucks makes the state money faster than a bunch of parking tickets and that I will lose based on that simple math alone.

    Good luck to all who have been stuck with this obvious racket of fine.
    And a big thanks to Roger – I have read a lot of your comments and your site. Thanks for the advice, I will sign your petitions and I encourage others to do the same.


  4. Yup, guilty. The cop showed up late, in a hoodie. A hoodie! At least show me the decency of a uniform. Anyway, I had researched what he looked like and recognized him so when they gave us the last option for traffic school, I took it. (You actually don’t have to know what the cop looks like, you get one last chance to pick traffic school even after knowing that your cop showed up). $537 bucks plus traffic school costs. At least my insurance will not suffer. I no longer have respect for the State of California or its cops. What a sham to make these fines so high and for little or no safety increase. I just got hustled and bullied by the State.

    Good luck to all of you – if you were the lady sitting next to me and when I walked by I said “I have never seen anyone win” – write back and tell me how your trial went. I hope for some slim, silver of a chance you did win.



  5. Leanne@ Lacking any further information, I can only say “It depends on the judge, the citing officer, and the city.”

  6. @ Sid – Rental car companies are very good at “snitching” you out. It may take weeks for a ticket to arrive. I know of no one who has challenged such a ticket. However, I would. Will the person who “nominated” you be in court? No. Can evidence be submitted that they think you were the driver? Hearsay, perhaps. How much time do you have to fight?

  7. Regarding the speed trap defense, I looked into this a little bit. It turns out that CVC 40801 is a prohibition on using speed traps, but that courts read it with an eye to the exclusionary rules in CVC 40803, 40804, and 40805. So, they say the 40801 is not designed to prohibit use of speed trap evidence in prosecutions for other things, like drunk driving or red light enforcement. Take a look at this, which specifically rules out this defense:

    “Best submitted evidence that the automated traffic enforcement systems measure the time it takes a vehicle to travel the distance between a pair of electromagnetic sensors in a traffic lane, and a computer system “performs a time and rate of speed calculation that provides information upon which the system relies in documenting alleged [red light] violations.” Further, Best established that a “flash camera is mounted in a box on a pole at the intersection, across from the target area so that the camera can photograph the front of the target vehicle as it proceeds through the intersection,” and the “camera location is fixed …, and thus the [automated traffic enforcement system] must use the vehicle’s speed to estimate when the vehicle will be in a position for the required photographs to be taken.”

    (2) The City of West Hollywood, however, established that it did not use evidence of vehicle speed gathered in conjunction with the red light systems to prosecute any speeding charges. Vehicle Code section 40803, subdivision (a) provides that “[n]o evidence as to the speed of a vehicle upon a highway shall be admitted in any court upon the trial of any person in any prosecution under this code upon a charge involving the speed of a vehicle when the evidence is based upon or obtained from or by the maintenance or use of a speedtrap.” (Italics added.) Similarly, Vehicle Code section 40804, subdivision (a) provides that “[i]n any prosecution under this code upon a charge involving the speed of a vehicle, an officer or other person shall be incompetent as a witness if the testimony is based upon or obtained from or by the maintenance or use of a speed trap.” Under their plain language, the speedtrap statutes do not apply to red light enforcement, which the Legislature has authorized through the use of automated systems.”

    And then there’s this, from an earlier case, where the court explained why the defense doesn’t work to drunk driving:

    “To remedy the use of an illegal speed trap, the Vehicle Code mandates the exclusion of evidence and testimony obtained as a result of the maintenance or use of a speed trap in any prosecution upon a charge involving the speed of a vehicle. Specifically, section 40803 provides: “(a) No evidence as to the speed of a vehicle upon a highway shall be admitted in any court upon the trial of any person in any prosecution under this code upon a charge involving the speed of a vehicle when the evidence is based upon or obtained from or by the maintenance or use of a speed trap.” Similarly, section 40804 provides: “(a) In any prosecution under this code upon a charge involving the speed of a vehicle, any officer or other person shall be incompetent as a witness if the testimony is based upon or obtained from or by the maintenance or use of a speed trap.” Section 40805, which specifies that a court lacks jurisdiction to enter a conviction in a prosecution in which speed trap evidence has been admitted, is similarly restricted in application to violations of the Vehicle Code involving the speed of a vehicle.

    Defendant contends that despite the express language in the remedial provisions of sections 40803 and 40804, this court should interpret the speed trap exclusionary statutes as applicable in a prosecution charging driving under the influence. He argues that section 40801, the general prohibition against use of speed traps, still applies to any alleged violation of the Vehicle Code, and is not limited to charges only involving the speed of a vehicle. He also argues that the phrase “a charge involving the speed of a vehicle” must be read broadly to include any act of reckless driving, including driving under the influence, where the speed of the vehicle plays a material part in the charges. Applying the following standards of statutory interpretation, we reject this contention.

    Although section 40801 generally prohibits the use of speed traps for arresting any person for any alleged violation of the Vehicle Code, all of the exclusionary provisions of the speed trap laws apply only in a prosecution upon a charge involving the speed of a vehicle. (§§ 40803, subd. (a), 40804, subd. (a), 40805.) Thus, the Legislature has expressed its intent, in clear and unequivocal language, that evidence obtained from an illegal speed trap is only inadmissible in cases involving speeding violations. Under the plain language of these statutes, defendant’s charges of driving under the influence and driving with a blood alcohol level greater than .08 percent were not subject to the exclusionary provisions of the speed trap laws. (See People v. Sullivan, supra, 234 Cal.App.3d at p. 60, 285 Cal.Rptr. 553; see also People v. Goulet (1992) 17 Cal.Rptr.2d 801, 13 Cal.App.4th Supp. 1, 14.)

    So, I think anyone who wants to try that defense would hit a wall. Better to take the traffic school.

  8. On Monday we received a citation from the City and County of San Francisco Automated Enforcement Traffic Violation. The citation was issued to our business name, as that is how the vehicle is registered.

    We have several employees who drive our company vehicles, and we really could not tell who it was that was driving–even going online and zooming in on the photo. When all employees were talked to about this and driving safely in a safety meeting the day after receiving this citation, it came out who the driver was, and he already no longer works for us. Apparently he saw the flash of the camera and confided in another worker.

    I do not intend to “snitch” on this former employee (although I’d like to), but I want to know, are we responsible for paying the citation because we own the vehicle and it was in use during the course of business.

    Today, three days after receiving the initial citation, I received a “courtesy notice” from the Superior Court of California County of San Francisco.
    There is a paragraph that reads:

    “If you were not the actual driver, submit a photocopy of your driver’s license, or other picture I.D. along with a recent original photograph and information regarding the actual driver of the vehicle at the time of the violation.”

    I can see how this would work for an individual as a registered owner, but not for a business. Can you clarify this for me? Thank you!

  9. Susan, I am a bit unclear if you do nothing what would happen. Would there be a hold placed on the vehicle’s registration? I don’t know. You certainly don’t have to “nominate” the driver. The trick is get out of this whole business with minimal effort. I would first contact the SFPD red light camera personnel and ask them to dismiss the ticket. You do not have the contact info for the actual driver. If they are unwilling to do so, then submit a Trial by Written Declaration. Form TR-205, I believe. Submit a copy of your driver’s license and a statement that you were not driving.

    Try that.

  10. Hi I think I just got a red light photo taken. I have a brand new car without license plates (just the dealers paper ad plates). I have the temp registration taped to my windshield. Will they still be able to ticket me? Thanks for your help!

  11. Wife received Notice To Appear from San Leandro Police Department with Alameda County Traffic court address and respond by Date for Redlight Camera ticket. Citation is issued in wife’s name as she is the registered owner of the vehicle. SHE WAS NOT THE DRIVER. Should we do the TBD stating to the fact that she is not the person in the picture? Reverse of the citation says to contact the police department or complete the “Affidavit of Non-Liability” form to identify the driver.

  12. For those who happen onto this site and who have received a camera ticket from HAYWARD, FREMONT, OR NEWARK. There is an 80% – 90% chance for a dismissal or at the very least a reduction from $480 to $154. The FIRST STEP is to enter a plea of Not Guilty. For more info contact Roger at

  13. Hello,

    So I received my red light ticket yesterday. The camera says the light was yellow for 3.5 seconds and red for .9 of a second during my alleged offense.

    This is what happened. I entered the intersection on a light that just turned yellow and then had to break unexpectedly as the car in front of me that had just crossed the light braked hard to avoid something in the road. I would have made it through the light without issue if the car in front of me did not have an issues. If I did not break, I risked an accident.

    Do I have a case?

  14. Andrea. There is a situation like the one you describe where the motorist is trapped into a dilemma for which there is no correct answer. It is difficult to lay out the facts in a manner a judge can understand them. I am not good at expressing the facts, either.

    Let’s say you approach an intersection at the speed limit and the light goes to yellow. In that instant you judge that you can easily make it to the limit line before the red (that is, before 3.5 seconds have elapsed). You also determine in that same instant, that you are too close to the limit line to comfortably decelerate in time to stop. You decide to proceed which is perfectly acceptable and legal. However, in the next instant an event happens which causes you to slow down (like the one you describe where the car ahead swerves or brakes hard). You slow down and quite rightly so. Your brain has already determined that you had time to proceed but not enough time to stop. However, you are now traveling at a slower rate of speed and that speed does not get you to the limit line in time and before the light turns red. Bingo. You now have a $500 ticket. I suggest you google and write to Brian Ceccerelli and ask him for an explanation of the events in a manner which might help you in court. He is quite good at explaining the physics involved. Good luck. Keep us posted.

  15. How to get the 80 % chance dismissal or fine reduction for hayward red light violation? Plead not guilty, then what?


  16. Will,
    If you get a trial before Judge Joseph Carson in Fremont you have 2 excellent chances for relief:

    a. Photo is not clear enough (90% are dismissed as long as you do not say anything placing you at the scene).

    b. About 3 weeks ago he started reducing all right turns to $154.

    The problem is that Carson is going back into retirement real soon. (I heard this from a couple attorneys) If I were you I would call or go to the courthouse in Fremont immediately and ask how to get the speediest trial date. Be prepared to post the $480 bail. My guess is that after Jan. 1, your chances may approach zero.

  17. Hi Roger,
    I just got a ticket in the mail this weekend for the 5th and Mission red light cam. The picture of the driver of the vehicle isn’t the best and the visor is down, obstructing the eyes, hair, and forehead. I am hoping that it isn’t clear enough for positive identification, but I would love to have you take a look. Can I send you the citation number and pin via email for you to review?

    Also, have you heard someone having a red light time of 1 second? Most of the posts on here mention .3 or .5 seconds. The citation shows a 1 second red on mine. It seems unreasonable that a driver would run a red light that was red for 1 second BEFORE they even entered the intersection.

    As an aside, I just got done paying a 2K “use tax” because I moved here last year but had bought my car in Oregon and paid no taxes (they also charged me for a smog certification even though it was a 2012 vehicle). I feel like the CA DMV has already taken enough of my money and I feel this amount of this ticket is unfair and predatory. I am planning on fighting it and I am hoping I can get it thrown out although I’m not too confident about it. Any help is appreciated.

  18. Derek: How will the judge rule on identity? Depends on the judge. Read other posts in this blog. You can bolster your case and throw some reasonable doubt on the issue. A picture of your brother or roommate which resembles you…Proof you were at work or a concert near the time of infraction. Go ahead and send me Pin # and web address of the cite to view photos, too.

  19. I ran a red light in February 2012 in San Francisco Downtown ( ran meaning I was halfway through a yellow light when it turned red). Two weeks later I received a letter from Enterprise with a Citation Number – but this is December and I still havent gotten any ticket – am i Off the hook ? Do I have to check somewhere ? I called up the numbers given in the letter but they seem to have no information – they just ask me to wait – but its almost 10 months now – how much longer do I have to wait ?

  20. Ravi. I think you are in the clear. I think the statute allows for a year to cite you. You could call the courthouse and give them your citation no. and see what they have to say. In Alameda County, this can easily be done on-line but I don’t know about SF.

    I am curious what the letter from Enterprise said.

  21. I received a red light violation for 21453(a) – “Red Signal – Vehicular Respon.” I DID make a right on red – I saw no signs that is “no right on red” (and there are no signs that are visible in the photos that came with the citation). Bail is $490.
    What is my best course of action – pay bail and do online traffic school (for some unknown fee)
    or do I have a chance to reduce the fine by pleading not guity?
    Due date of bail is 12/26/12 – so have to get in mail today.
    This blog is wonderful. thank you.

  22. JLB – If you have not paid it yet, please provide much more information in order to figure out what sort of chances you might have.

  23. JLB – A week or two ago over 30 defendants in traffic court had their tickets dismissed. ALL were dismissed. Many probably figured they had no chance.

  24. I was driving on Sloat and was making a turn onto 19th. When I was making my turn, the light was still yellow, but there was camera light flashing. Once when I was in my turn and once when the turn ended. Is that a faulty camera? Will I be able to argue in court. The light was yellow so I did not slow down. How can I argue this one?

  25. I was making a right turn on Howard and 9th and rolled through a red light. The red sec time was 0.4 seconds at 15 mph. I did go through the red, but did not want to make an abrupt stop on a wet road. Any help would be appreciated, thank you.

  26. @Helen. You seem to say the light was yellow. You do not say you received a ticket in the mail. Did you? Did you access a video? Did you look at the video? Was the light yellow as you crossed the limit line? You should repost when you can answer these questions.

  27. @Derrick. What you say has been said a thousand time by others. Of course, it is not fair. Of course, $500 is an exorbitant amount. What can you say to help yourself in court? After attending hundreds of trials, I can say what possible relief depends more on who is wearing the robe than on what the law says and what is fair. I can relay my experiences as to justice in Fremont Traffic Court but not San Francisco. You can cull through this blog to figure out a few things. Unfortunately, no one has devoted serious time to auditing proceedings in SF Traffic Court that I know of. Someday, perhaps some retiree who feels these systems are such a fraud that he or she must really do something will surface.
    You can email me with citation number and Pin but I have no magic wand. If you are a commercially licensed driver or if this would be a 2nd or 3rd point on your license in the last 18 months, retaining an attorney may be economically viable.. Attorney Sherry Gendelman, I hear, is very good.

  28. I want to pass on my experience with a red light photo ticket I received in San Francisco. First of all the case was dismissed and I think it was because no officer was present for the trial. I had prepared a defense based on the fact that the signs used in SF are not as large as required according to the CVC. If you look up what size sine is required it shows 3 sizes. A minimum size that is intended to be used only is non-typical situation such as an ally. The next size up is for normal streets and then a larger size(6ft tall) is shown and it is to be used on freeways and expressways. SF has posted only the smallest size where ever I have seen one including as you enter the city through the Golden Gate toll plaza. That sign by the way is attached to a pole along with 3 other signs. The other signs are what are referred to as directional or informational signs and the CVC states that the “Photo Enforced” sign is not to posted with these other type of signs.
    I found all of this info interesting and was kind of hoping to air it out at my trial but never got the chance. Perhaps some of your readers can use it.
    Thanks Dave

  29. David – Extremely useful information. Perhaps someone will use your info at trial and report back. It is highly unusual for any officer to NOT appear to testify. In Alameda County, camera cases are batched so that each city’s camera cases are batched on one or two days each week so that just one officer can give evidence in as many as 40 cases at one sitting. To not show up leaves thousands of dollars in revenue on the table. I wonder why this happened. In 100-200 trial dates I have only seen this happen 3 times.

    For others who may want to brush up on proper and legal photo enforcement signage, here is what “” has to say:

  30. I was already across the line before the light turned red ,i didnt know anything about completely stopping , i thought a yellow light ment proceed with caution. I cant afford a 300-400 dollar ticket ,is there anything i can do sense this is a first time offense or situation, I just got my first car and insurence and drivers lisence .please help me.

  31. Gregory. You probably have it a bit wrong. If you cross the limit line before the light turned red, then that is not an infraction. Are you sure the photo doesn’t show your car behind the limit line in photo #1?? To get help, you will have to give details and you should plow thru this blog to learn a bit more.

  32. I got a photo ticket for failing to come to a complete stop at a red light before turning red in the city of San Leandro with the court house being Alameda County. The two photos, that are 1 sec apart, show me going 3 mph in each picture and the ticket is $490.

    What are my options for reducing this fair? Do I go to the clerk and plead not guilty as is suggested above? I understand that this might reduce my fine but what if that option isn’t presented and I need to then make a case for why I am not guilty – then what? Then do I just try to argue that fine is exessive for the crime?

    Any help is appreciated!

  33. Tiff – I hear from some that a guilty plea at arraignment in Oakland gets a $100 discount. About $380 ($437 with traffic school option). If you plead Not Guilty, most people do not take advantage of the fact the photo may not be clear enough to convict “beyond a reasonable doubt.” They feel that is not being honest and they can’t help but tell their story which often times convicts them.
    There are some other legal defenses which could be used but it takes a little homework for people to feel comfortable enough to make their case. Email your cite#, lic.plate # and City code if you want me to take a look – Roger/
    (I doubt the data bar says vehicle speed was 3 mph) JOIN:

  34. Thank you Roger. To follow up on my Jan. 15th post, the experience at SF traffic court proceeded as others have described on this forum. I went to SF traffic court room 145 and asked for a trial date. When the day came the clerk offered three options: plead guilty, go to trial, or traffic school. About half the people there chose traffic school. My fine was lowered from $490 to $342 with the condition that traffic school be completed within three months. Fees for traffic school are separate. None of the options are great, but saved about $150 going through the process.

  35. great site! it’s a shame that more people don’t post follow-up, especially when they’ve come to you for advice. :/

    i’ve tried to read as many of the postings as possible (an embarrassing number), and it seems certain that no front license plate means no ticket where i live. but i haven’t seen any reference to whether the still cameras can capture a license plate that’s attached inside to the windshield of the car (passenger side, bottom edge at the dashboard) rather than affixed to the front bumper. this was at night, and i got flashed twice during a right on red–i don’t suppose there’s a chance the windshield and the angle might deflect the flash? just reaching for any hope that a ticket won’t arrive. happy to provide any additional info!

  36. Derrick: By law if a real ticket is issued it must be received by the registered owner within 15 days. After that, if a ticket is received, file a demurrer. Anyway, if you are the owner, mark that date on the calendar. I doubt if the mailman will give you the ticket.

  37. oops – last posting should have been directed to “worried” Anyway, Derrick, thanks for the feedback. I am sure it will help others. The courts can be quite confusing.

  38. Next Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 7:00 pm the Hayward City Council is scheduled to hear a new proposal for extending the Redflex Redlight Camera Contract. Now is the time for some action.

    Even if you do not live or work in Hayward it is important to have your say about these things. Even if you have not received a ticket or a Hayward ticket, let your voice be heard. The high cost of fines is a regional “back-door” tax.

    Things you can do.

    Email the City Council: simply send a letter to this email address and ask that it be sent to the members of the City Council, City Manager, and/or the Chief of Police.

    Come to the meeting (City Hall in Hayward) and show support. Perhaps you want to fill out a “speaker’s card” when you arrive and have your say.

    Examples of things to say by email or in person.

    Tell your own tale of woe. How did the $500 fine harm you and your family. Was your ticket an inconsequential right turn? A report to Congress by the Nat’l Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that only one collision out of every 2,000 involves a right turn on red. Of the thousands of tickets issued to right turners has there ever been a collision “caught on tape?”

    How much time did you devote to fight a ticket and you were not even the driver?

    You or a family member “nominated” the actual driver only to find out that this original ticket was a “ruse?” Not a real ticket.

    Were you or a friend/family member cited for being just a fraction of a second late into the intersection and there was no cross traffic apparent? Why are yellow lights so short and set at or near the minimums when it has been shown that adding as little as a one-half second of yellow light time can reduce violations by half?

    Red light cameras DO NOT reduce red light running. If they did, there would be not enough revenue to pay the camera company, Redflex.

    Redflex has been alleged to be involved in bribery and corruption in Chicago on a widespread basis just last week. Does Hayward want to continue its relationship with this Australian company?

    What about the $5,000,000 in fines levied against residents and visitors to Hayward EACH YEAR by red light cameras. Wouldn’t it be better to lengthen yellow lights for safety and leave that money in the pocket of consumers?

    Ticket counts are NOT going down. Still 1,500 tickets per month. Why? Is this an example of how Red Light Cameras do NOT work? Emeryville, Newark, Oakland, and Fremont have examples of great reductions in red light running just by adding 7/10’s to one full second to the yellow light times.

    Please contact me if I can help in any way.

  39. Hayward agenda item re: Red Light Cameras has been postponed for one week. Hearing to be on Tuesday Feb. 26 at 7:00 pm

  40. Agenda item re: NEW RED LIGHT CAMERA CONTRACT for Hayward has been postponed again. The matter is now scheduled to be heard on Tues. March 5th at 7:00 pm at Hayward City Hall. Convincing Hayward to end photo enforcement should help convince other Bay Area Cities. The stories are all the same. Let them know in your own words. Email and ask that your email be forwarded to City Council.

  41. David Jones I’m curious as to where you found the information stating that the city of San Francisco had to have a certain size sign indicating Automated Enforcement, and that it could not be on the same pole as other directional or informational signs. I’m going tonight to take pictures of the intersection as the sign wasn’t visible at the dimly intersection. I’m also sure there weren’t signs posted 200ft. from the intersection indicating an Automated Enforcement Signal. If anyone else has any input on my situation I would gladly welcome it. The infraction took place in Los Angeles County: Walnut, California.

  42. Chris A —-Was your ticket issued by San Francisco or Walnut, CA??
    Have you looked up website. Most of Los Angeles city or county – these tickets are unenforceable….perhaps. check it out

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