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. Got a right turn on red camera ticket in South SF — first frame has me behind the double white line, second one in the midst of the turn. Speed shows a constant 11 mph.

    Interestingly, the right turn was made during a left turn signal for traffic doing the opposite turn (i.e., they were turning from the street I turned onto from the street I had just left).

    Accordingly, there was absolutely no possibility of a collision since the lane into which I was turning was empty, and there was no traffic that had a green light to enter my lane at the time.

    Thoughts on this? I’m stunned that this is a $500 ticket.

  2. SSF WTF: The important news is that according to you and your ticket the trigger speed in order to activate cameras has been lowered from 15 mph to 11 mph. This could mean a huge increase in SSF ticketing. I would like to access your ticket and photos via the camera company’s website and even receive a copy of your actual printed citation. Possible? email me direct – – Roger

    The other stuff about “no possibility…” “no opposing traffic” will not help you in court. Photo ID is usually the most available defense.

  3. My fiance drove my car this morning and rolled past the crosswalk a bit before stopping, and a camera light flashed. We know the fed-ex truck next to us totally ran the redlight, but we didn’t. Anyhow, he’s driving the car, but the car is registered to me. If we get a ticket, will the photo show the driver? Can I claim that the driver is not me? Will I still have to go to traffic court?

  4. Plumeriasun – Relax. If you get a ticket it must be received within 15 days. If you do, then contact this site or with all the details. But do not do a thing until you get the facts. See too for information. Read about Snitch Tickets.

  5. Hi Roger-

    I just received a ticket in the mail from SF superior court telling me I was issued a citation through the red light enforcement program. It didn’t send me a picture, nor an address of where it was taken. my typical route home does include turning right onto Oak from Octavia, which is where I imagine this could have happened. But is it common for them to send the citation without a picture or place for me to see the proof? Any advice on what my next step should be? i would like to avoid the point on my record and anything I can do to keep this fee down.

    Thank you for your help! You seem to be a lot more educated in this space than I am.

    Thanks again,

  6. Hi Roger

    I have the same situation as WTF SSF. I got a notice in the mail today for right turn on red camera ticket in south SF at El Camino and Chestnut Ave. The first frame has me behind the double white line, and second one after i have left the white line. The speed shows in both frames at 10 mph.

    I made the right turn during the left turn from the direction of traffic i’m turning onto ( I was on red light on El Camino and turn right onto Chestnut Ave while the left turn signal was green from Chestnut Ave to El Camino)t).

    The street I turn onto was empty and there was no pedestrians crossing. Any advise? although the fee is not written on the notice, i am stun to see online that most are almost $500.

    Any advise you can give me is appreciated.

  7. Stun: The fact that it was safe and no pedestrians is not a defense which will help you. Advice is same as for WTF SSF. See this website for more info:

  8. First I want to thank you for your amazing work and contribution to the community- even if I don’t get a response, just the information you have assembled is helpful.
    I received an automated enforcement traffic enforcement violation (violating VC21453A) in SF at Van Ness and 14th street for running a red light. I checked, and none of the “easy outs” seem to apply- the ticket came in 9 days, etc. The violation claims I ran the red light by 1.1 seconds. There are 4 pictures. The first 2 have a panel with numbers at the top- I don’t know what they mean or if they are relevant. The 4th picture is the “close up” of the car. From this photocopy of the picture at this size, it is hard to make out much- I guess it looks like me with a pony tail and possibly sunglasses (hard to see). There is some glare from the sun. At this level of resolution, it is hard to see. HOWEVER, I wonder if they may have additional videos and or photos that they are not disclosing. Also, perhaps if you have the actual image and can zoom it, you could identify me.

    I am just about to start nursing school and don’t have a lot of time to work on this :( I also don’t have a lot of money to pay the $490 ticket + traffic school since I stopped workign to change careers and have to pay for school too.

    What are my options? I found several companies: “”, “” that propose to prepare a trial by declaration for you for about $300. If you lose, they give you a full/partial refund (depending on the company). They claim to have an 80% success rate. I do not believe they use the blurry picture defense- my guess is that they try to argue that the cameras are somehow not meeting regulations and give a generic defense. I’m not even sure I could use a blurry picture defense, and going to trial would be non-trivial for me if it conflicts with class.

    I am wondering what you think of these companies/if it is worth it/likely to work? It would be $300 instead of $500 if it does.

    Or what other alternatives do I have given my situation?

    Very gratefully yours,

  9. I received the same ticket about a year ago. When I appeared at the first hearing, the court offered everyone a reduction of the fine by 1/3, which brought it down to about $320. You also had to attend traffic school. I paid it and attended traffic school online to get rid of it.

  10. Steve provides some useful information. If anyone has more up-to-date info on what a quick plea of guilty at arraignment gets in the way of a reduction, it will help many decide on how to best deal with their tickets. The name of the judge would help since any reductions may vary from judge to judge. Sometimes some judges have reduced right turn violations by amounts greater than others.

  11. Hi, I’m a licensed driver in San Francisco, CA and I drive through 19th Ave and Taraval a lot. Every time I go through this intersection, I see these two cameras that are mounted high onto the light poles (near citi bank and shell gas station) pointing at drivers (one facing drivers heading towards ocean beach and one facing drivers that are heading away from ocean beach). I was wondering what kind of cameras are they? I checked the website and there are currently 26 intersections with red light cameras in the automated photo enforcement system. I checked to see if 19th and taraval have any red light cameras installed and it didn’t say. I’m not saying that I ran the red light because I have been a good driver for the last 3 years with no accidents or any type of moving violations, but every time I drive through here, I get nervous. And scared. Thanks

  12. James,
    I would first call SFPD or engineering….”is there a RLC camera there? If so, which direction is enforced? In not, what is it? Write to the City Council and express your concerns about fearing draconian enforcement measures actually affects your seemingly good driving habits. There is evidence that visitors make more mistakes trying to discern traffic rules, lane markings, etc. amongst all the visual urban clutter of signs.

  13. I came up the left turn lane from Fell onto Masonic, and started to proceed through the crosswalk that crosses Fell Street, despite the left turn arrow being red (I was distracted, partly by the traffic on the right). The camera flashed and I slammed on the brakes, then backed up. I was definitely over the crosswalk, maybe past it, although I hadn’t started to turn left at all. I did get a citation in the mail.

    I take it that this is legally a red light violation, even though I didn’t proceed through the intersection?

  14. I went to the online website to pay this ticket (see above), but they don’t find the ticket by the citation number; same with the telephone payment facility. But the “respond to court” date is 10/3, 3 days away. Does this mean that I *have* to go in to the court in person? It’s probably too late to count on mailing in payment. Plus there is no form included with the violation notice to mail in (e.g. a way to indicate that I’m requesting traffic school).

  15. Fell & Masonic – It may be you do not have a real ticket at all but a Snitch Ticket. For more information – google snitch ticket or email me. – provide a call back phone no.

    Roger Jones

  16. It seems definitely to be a real ticket. It has “Notice to Appear” and the court address on it.

    But if it’s not in their system (3 days before the Appear By date) I can’t pay it unless I go into the court in person. The letter I got was from “City and County of San Francisco Automated Enforcement Traffic Violation”. Is there any possibility that someone down the line reviewed the video (which shows me coming to a stop slightly into the intersection) and decided not to pursue it? Or is it just a matter of time, and if I don’t pay it now I’ll end up with a bunch more trouble?

  17. Hi ,
    I was driving a rental car when I set of the camera for a rolling red light on mission st downtown.
    I received a notice from National car rental that they had shared my information with the agency. However its been 3 months now and I haven’t received a citation in the mail. ( I am out of state).
    Does this mean I am off the hook, or if National had incorrect information am I setting myself up for a warrant.

  18. Redlight – If you have a citation no. of any kind try entering it on the Court’s website:

    I know if it were a ticket thru a Redflex system, that you would have received a citation no. ending in an A. If the Rental Car co. nominated you, the A would change to a B.

    Probably better to just call the court and ask if you have an outstanding ticket.

  19. The letter below was sent to some local attorneys. The letter tries to explain that yellow lights is almost all situations are too short for some left turners and right turners. In general, those cited for being one second or less “late” have been trapped.
    Let’s say you have a client who was cited making a left or right turn by camera. Was the driver’s late time less than one second?

    If so, here is why the yellow light was too short. On a 40 mph road with a 4.0 second yellow (like Fremont), the light turns to yellow when the driver, for example, is only 3.0 seconds from the line. The driver continues at 40 mph and crosses the line while the light is yellow. Legal, prudent, and safe. To stop would require a “hard braking.” Let’s say that the driver is only 2.0 seconds away from the line. Much, much harder to stop. Certainly this driver would proceed without slowing down.

    Now, let’s say this same scenario applies to a driver who is in the right turn lane planning on turning right. It takes 2.0 seconds to decelerate comfortably from 40 to 15 mph. Vehicles turning right can easily reach the beginning turning velocity in 2.0 seconds. We know 15 mph is a reasonable beginning velocity because the cameras are not even activated unless the speed of the vehicle is measured at 15 mph or faster when 6 feet from the line and, Lord knows, there are a lot of right on red tickets.

    This is the hard part to get folks to understand. The minimum yellow light time calculates the distance a vehicle travels at a constant rate of speed, not for a decelerating vehicle. When the yellow light appears and the vehicle is 3.0 seconds from the line, as in this example, the vehicle which is planning to turn will not have the time to stop AND it will not have time to reach the line before the red because it is decelerating, but it will have time to slow down to make the turn. Bingo. The camera activates and the vehicle is traveling at 15 mph just before making the turn.

    Traffic engineers do not understand this and certainly traffic court commissioners do not understand this.

    Of course, this “short yellow light” scenario is even more egregious for left turners. Most cities employ the legal minimum of 3.0 seconds no matter the speed of traffic.

    For more information, go to the cover story of Traffic Technology International (Pg. 58).


  20. I received red light photo ticket in San Francisco, I was not a driver. The clerk in court told me, if I do not identify who was driving a car, I would be responsible, because the car is registered under my name.
    Is it true? Thank you

  21. I received a red light ticket which on video I did do a rolling stop and you can tell its me.My question is they sent the ticket to my parents house which isn’t my address. I changed this address 4 months ago. My ticket was post marked 10/29/13. If my address in the dmv is right and they send it to wrong address can I fight that.

  22. Hi,
    I got a red light ticket at the notorious San Mateo intersection in front of the bart station. The ticket originally went to my mom (registered driver, but was actually out of country). After talking to the police station, they said they can drop it because she was not in the country. 2 days later, the ticket went to my sister (same mailing address). My sister was also out of the country, but they wouldn’t drop it for me anymore. In order to be able to ‘fight’ for the ticket, on the form she pointed to me as the driver.

    Now I have a ticket to deal with, I requested trial by declaration, but just noticed that on there it says I give up the right to not incriminate myself.

    I was going to say that there’s no proof I’m the person running the red light, but not sure if it’s a strong enough argument.

    Need advice on how to go about my written declaration.

  23. Kenny, Lisa, and Irene – – – Do a little research. Check Google “snitch tickets” Many car owners receive tickets which capture a relative or friend’s photo. They dutifully “nominate” their friend or relative. They miss the opportunity to beat the ticket both for themselves and their friend or relative. There is a way to email the editor of or to email the Bay Area activist at Most people do not give enough information to give a reasoned and intelligent response. You might contact an attorney if you do not want to share the details.

  24. Hi,

    Just wondering if anyone has recent information on whether appearing in court has reduced the red light fine. I’d rather appear and opt for Traffic School and a lesser fine if that is still a possibility rather paying the full $490 bond/fine.


  25. Molly – Even though judges often say the fine is not reducible, some offer a discount if you enter a plea of guilty at arraignment. Scroll back thru and see some say as much as $200 in SF. It was $100 in Redwood City Court but that judge retired. $115 for Fremont. Of course, many do not use the blurry photo defense, but one must usually go to trial. If unsuccessful, I have not seen any reduction.

  26. I just got a “right turn on red” ticket in San Francisco. Here’s the thing – it wasn’t me but I don’t know who it was! I don’t have the foggiest idea.

    My car flunked smog back in June when the registration was due. It’s an old car so I decided to retire it for $1000 from the state. But when I started that process I found out that the state was still negotiating their contracts with Northern California junkyards. They literally didn’t have any place for me to take my car! They said that they would probably be done with that in August. So I stuck my car in my carport space (accessible from the street) and either walked, took the bus, or borrowed an elderly neighbor’s car for the next few months. Just a week before I received the red light ticket, she sold her car to a neighbor so I couldn’t borrow it anymore. So I RENTED A CAR on the one occasion that I needed one. This was four days before the alleged red light ticket! I have since rented a car two more times – one of them before I received the ticket.

    I have been very busy with work the past few months so I did not actually sell my car back to the state. In fact I have not yet checked whether they have some local junkyards signed up though I assume they do by now.

    Meanwhile, I would go down every few weeks, when I remembered, and start the engine.

    I have had various houseguests in the past few months, some relatives, one pet sitter, some tourists I let crash on my couch. All had access to my key jar which is just inside the front door. Some knew I had a car. None had permission to drive it.

    Once I got the ticket I looked for my spare car key and it’s not in the key jar.

    Now, the spare key could have been missing for years – I have never needed it, so I don’t know!

    Additionally, the ticket was issued at an intersection 5 miles from my home, and I have proof that 17 minutes earlier I was across town at home sending emails!

    My car doesn’t have a valid 2014 tag – I would never tool around the city with expired tags – I’d be stopped by the cops and given a ticket (is that a moving violation? I don’t know).

    The person driving is a female (as am I) … I cannot tell who it is. It doesn’t particularly look like me, but it also isn’t definitely NOT me. It’s just a blurry picture of a female with the same color hair I have.

    There are three photos on-line, no video, the red light is not visible in any of the photos. Oddly, one of the photos (the clearest view of the driver’s face, in profile as she looks right to turn) … has a big white box over roughly where the passenger seat is.

    The driver appears to be wearing a ponytail and my hair is too short for a ponytail.

    I simply do not have the time to fight this in court as I’ve got a lot of work deadlines coming up.

    The deadline to reply is December 12th.

    Should I submit the above information on the form on the back of the ticket? Is there any chance it would be dismissed, or do they always make you work for a dismissal?

    Also, what is a Trial by Written Declaration – is that what I would get if i filled out the “it’s not me” form, or is that a next step if I plead not guilty?

    I do not want a point on my license but I don’t want to plead guilty to something I didn’t do and pay a whopping fine.

    I am slammed between now and the end of the year – I might be motivated to fight this more vigorously if I had more time. I am insanely detail-oriented so I would be inclined to actually go down to court and sit in on a session and see how things go for people (for example, how much of a reduction they get if they plead guilty – I don’t think anybody has posted that number here recently). And also, if I go down to SFPD (at the Hall of Justice) will I be able to see all their evidence right away or do I have to wait for them to mail it? And if I don’t receive it by December 12th … will I have to proceed with court without knowing what they have?

    Are they supposed to have a video if it’s a right turn violation?

    Thanks for having this thread for people to post on!

  27. In October, I received by mail a ticket for running a red light while making a right turn (westbound at Howard & 9th). It came with pics & a link to a video. I remember the light well, as I had stopped so fast I hurt my neck a little bit. You see, I actually *did* stop, twice, each for like half a second. However, in the video, when you watch the 7 seconds, it does look like I probably ran the red light. But I remembered stopping, so I tried to go frame by frame on the video and take screenshots, so I could see if I stopped.

    After making screenshots and calculating how many frames I was in one spot (not moving), I found that the car is not moving for 0.3 seconds before the intersection, then it moves about 10 feet into the crosswalk, and stops again for 0.3 seconds, and then it zooms around the corner.

    I went to court and explained that I did stop twice, for 0.3 seconds two time, once before and once in the crosswalk. I even brought the screen shots showing the time and frame number to prove it. However, the attending officer said multiple times during my testimony “you ran the light” “yes you did”, which distracted my focus. When I said that my car was not moving for 4 frames, he said “of course it’s not moving, they’re photographs”. Then, he suggested we watch the video (this *after* his testimony, and in the middle of mine). After seeing the video, the judge said “you ran the light”, and never even looked at my screenshots. Guilty. The red light camera technician was even there behind the officer nodding his head yes, whenever the policeman said “she ran it”.

    So, dishartened to lose $490 in an unfair trial, I asked for traffic school. The clerk said I would have had to request it before the trial. In fact, she had made an announcement before the trials started: “this is the last chance to request traffic school,” which I had had no idea what meant, this being my first ticket.

    Can I appeal this again? I feel my evidence was not considered. Is 0.3 seconds a proper stop in California? Is the policeman allowed to talk during my testimony? $490 is too much money for what looks like a California rolling stop on the video. But even worse when I know I *did* stop.

  28. Gary, your story is a cautionary tale. It reminds me of all those cop shows where people who are innocent refuse plea deals and they end up going away for life. The courts pretty much blackmail you into pleading guilty because you can’t get traffic school if you don’t – and it appears they ALWAYS find you guilty if you plead innocent. Sheesh.

    Do you happen to remember what discount they offered the people off the $490 if they pled guilty?

  29. A court appointed lawyer was there representing all the “no contest” people (none of whom were there). I dont remember any bargaining for them. However, I do remember their fines being generally lower (like $350) – but they spoke in penal codes, not English, so I dont know what the infractions were. Everyone on that long list without a prior ticket (in 7 years?) wanted traffic school and got it.

  30. I’ve seen a sign for a red light camera at the intersection of Pine and Polk in SF. Is this entire intersection camera monitored? The “camera enforced” sign is only on Pine St before you get to the Polk St intersection. Anyone know if it also applies to those driving on Polk itself?

  31. Hi, I thought I would give an update about my case so far because I think it might help people fighting red light camera tickets in San Francisco.

    The notice I received in the mail roughly 3 weeks ago said I had to respond by today or face suspension of my license and an additional fine of $300. I got another letter crom the Superior Court about a week ago that gave a later deadline but I wasn’t goung to take any chances so I showed up at the Hall Of justice (HOJ) today.

    There were probably 20 people in line waiting to make arrangements regarding moving violations (or MUNI fare evasion citations). The line moved quickly and everybody in line was friendly… we whiled away the time trading stories and information. Time well spent.

    When I got to the window the first thing the clerk did was ask me if I was the driver and I said no. She didnt really ask for the story but I laid it on her anyway and she listened and seemed to follow and believe me. Then she went off to print out my photographs to see if the person looked like me.

    At that point I was hopeful that she was going to dismiss the citation because why else would she be listening to the story and reviewing the photographs? I still don’t know the answer to those questions but in hindsight I doubt that the window clerks have the authority to dismiss moving violations.

    She came back with two black and white photos that she had blown up off the web site and they were completely blurry. Definitely couldn’t identify the driver and could barely tell the gender! She said that there was no video. Just three or four blurry photos. She said not all red light camera intersections take video.

    I asked for a Trial By Written Declaration and she said that if I did that I would have to pay the fine first. and if I declined to identify the actual driver … or even didn’t know who the actual driver was … I would be found guilty.

    She gave me a choice of three dates in January to appear … the 6th, the 10th or the 14th. I just looked at the paperwork and I cannot tell if that is a trial date or an arraignment date! I may have to call and ask.

    So, a couple of useful pieces of information.

    First, you have to file your request for “Informal Discovery” in writing only to:

    Office of the City Attorney
    Attn: John Kennedy
    Fox Plaza
    1390 Market Street, 7th Floor
    San Francisco, CA 94102-5408

    Second, she told me how much they reduce the fine if you show up and plead guilty. They knock a whopping $205 off the $490. The traffic school fee is $52. So the total goes from $542 to $337.

    She also told me that all the judges hearing these cases are new and I got the impression they are not very lenient.

    I will post the language of my court appointment document in my next comment in a week or so. Seems like a continuance is possible if you contact them five days before your court date…but if you just fail to show up that will cost you another $300 and they might issue a warrant for your arrest and suspend your license.

    I hope this helps some of you out there reading this.

  32. Also, not all red light camera intersections have working cameras in the box. They don’t have enough cameras for every intersection where there’s a box so I think they leave some empty. They may rotate the cameras every so often – not sure.

  33. I decided to appeal my red light right. I filed the initial forms ($3 for the first form and then $25 for the CR-142, which pays for the CD recording of the trial – standard in SF, because there are no court reporters. Now I have to wait for them to send me the CD along with a deadline for submitting my briefing citing exactly where in the CD the trial did not follow the law. Rules on that come from 8.900-8.929 of the California Rules of Court. I will update in a month or so when that all happens. But the clerk told me that most of the moving violation appeals in San Francisco are for red light camera tickets.

  34. Actually those rules are just about the appeal process. Im not sure where to find guidelines/hints/suggestions for a layman like me to prove “prejudicial error” (error in law or court procedures that caused substantial harm to me). Anyone have any information on that?

  35. Hi

    This morning I was driving on Bryant st and as I was about to drive through the yellow light intersection at 6th and bryant. The camera flashed toward the end when I had just crossed the intersection. I’ll admit I did speed up cause it was yellow then I noticed they got a photo of me. Ive been kicking myself for this. Im wondering will I get the ticket cause I swear it was yellow when I went though it. IF so how much? I shouldve just stopped and waited at the yellow :(

    Will they get me or was in just a traffic sensor?

  36. It is amazing to see many people who received RLC tickets in SF it also shows State of CA is so crazy to punish average citizens with the hefty fine fees. Most of people cannot win their cases because they are being tired with the chains of contest processes that finally “Rob” or “Rape” you for Red Light Tickets…
    I do believe smart judges dismiss some cases while majority people are losers. It is hard image you can win the RLCs that are measured hundred second (1 second = 0.0028 hour) while the vehicle is measured by mile per hour (MPH). Anyone who has GED should know this proportion does not match. We believe most of Judges are well educated and they should know this simple basic math.
    “The only way the people that are not at the top can have their interests looked after, is if they are organized,” Gov. Jerry Brown said. In other words, all people who paid and receive outrage fee should organize to file petition…

  37. @ gary – good to hear you are going the extra mile on your camera ticket. Consider forwarding your experience and documents to website: highwayrobbery .net There is also information on that website concerning appeals.
    The email address for the owner of the site is
    Posting on “Amusings” too will help others.

  38. @ Michael
    “The only way the people that are not at the top can have their interests looked after, is if they are organized,”
    Consider joining the Red Light Camera Protest Group of Alameda County. There are many from all over the Bay Area who are members. No cost or obligation. I would strongly suggest a letter to the local City Council.

  39. Right turn on red in San Francisco, reporting how it went for me.

    I had my arraignment in San Francisco today at 10:30 am.

    By the way, they say on the paperwork that you have to ask for a continuance in person, at least 5 business days before your court date. I had a family emergency last Wednesday that lasted through Friday and possibly would have required me to take off on short notice today, so yesterday I went in to the court to ask for a continuance. A very nice supervisor said that the docket was already up in the judge’s chambers and she couldn’t interrupt yesterday, but she’d call up this morning and ask on my behalf, and call me by 9 am to let me know the judge’s decision. I gave her paperwork proving that I was telling the truth, however when she called this morning at 9 am she said the judge had refused to grant a continuance.

    She explained to me yesterday that if I simply didn’t show up, I would have three days to pay the full ticket amount or nasty stuff would happen to me. I didn’t ask whether traffic school would be an option in that event.

    So, this morning myself and the great unwashed filed into a tiny “courtroom” filled with metal seats. The judge was not in the room. The court clerk greeted us all. A San Francisco policeman came in, obviously works out quite a bit, was not yet dressed in his full uniform but wearing a navy t-shirt over his work slacks, carrying his shirt, which I found a bit – disrespectful of the process? He seemed pretty familiar with the court clerk and the other person who worked there (another clerk?) … wandered around casually.

    So, the clerk told us that he was authorized by the judge to act on his behalf, then read a canned statement to those of who were there for moving violations, not fix-it tickets.

    He said that today was our arraignment date, not our trial date. We had a right to a trial before a judge within 45 days. We had a right to a lawyer but we would have to pay for one if we chose to be represented by a lawyer. We had a right to subpoena witnesses and to have witnesses testify on our behalf. We had a right to present evidence in our defense.

    Then he gave us our three options:

    1) TRAFFIC SCHOOL. If we were eligible for this and opted for it, we would be pleading guilty or no contest. They would take $205 off the ticket, and we would pay $57 to go to traffic school for 8 hours. We could go on-line. We would have three months to pay the fines and complete traffic school. Once we did that, the citation would be dismissed.

    2) COMMUNITY SERVICE. We could plead guilty or no contest and do community service to pay off the ticket at $10 per hour. This option does not permit traffic school, and the point would NOT be taken off our license. (He didn’t say this during his canned speech but I asked him and he told me this.) I believe that this option is for the full $490 ticket with nothing taken off (though he didn’t say this and I forgot to ask – I was not interested in this option after he said that the point stays on your record).

    So you’d have to work 49 hours to pay off a red light ticket. AND, having paid off some parking tickets years ago with Project 20, he didn’t say this but I think there is a $20 fee to enroll in Project 20 *and* an additional fee that scales up depending on the amount you are working off. If that’s true (I don’t know one way or the other) then it could cost as much as $100 to enroll in Project 20 to work 49 hours to work off a $490 ticket. Not to mention, with a point on your license, your insurance premium might go up and stay higher for three years. This option seems like a crappy deal in my opinion.

    3) PLEAD NOT GUILTY. If we did this, we gave up the option to have $205 taken off the ticket and we gave up the option to go to traffic school, so it would be a real gamble. If you plead not guilty and the judge finds you guilty (which he almost certainly will unless you offer up some other poor sap to take your place as the driver) … then you will pay the full $490 and you will have a point on your license for the next three years.

    But wait, it gets even worse! He said that the fine could actually go UP depending on your driving record.

    They really REALLY don’t want people going to trial, do they?

    So … the good news is that in San Francisco county, a $490 ticket can ALWAYS be turned into a $342 ticket by pleading guilty and taking traffic school ($490-$205+$57).

  40. PS He also explicitly said “traffic school is a privilege, not a right” – which is why they can take it off the table if you DARE to plead not guilty.

  41. Sorry for serial posting – here’s a couple of tips.

    First, I parked on Bryant Street between 9th and 10th which has no parking meters, and a 2 hour time limit. So, free parking – yay!

    Second, they started promptly at 10:30 am and as soon as he asked for people who wanted to take traffic school, I was up and out of my seat and was the first person who got to him. He looked up my name, handed me a sheet of paper on which he wrote my docket number (I think) and the letters TC, and I printed my name, signed and dated it, handed it to the other clerk and was out of there by something like 10:50 am. So, sit in front, sit closest to him, and jump up lickety split when he opens it up because if you don’t? You’ll be waiting in a VERY long line.

  42. Hi Roger and everyone,

    I have a question regarding this red light photo violation. The pictures taken were in the intersection of 8th and Harrison in sf, however the photos just have pictures of the cars and the intersection, and there is no images of then red light. Is that enough evidence to stare that one is guilty for running a red light?

    Really appreciated the help!


  43. Was at the infamous Fell & Masonic stop tonight Thursday evening. I was behind the white line ready to take a left turn and (with a witness also) the camera took a picture. Just curious why it took a picture when I was clearly not breaking any laws.

  44. I received a red light ticket at the intersection of Richardson Ave/Lombard and Chestnut. I was in the left lane with a bus in front of me and to the right of me. The last time I saw the light it was green but a few seconds passed were the buses blocked both lights and as I was in the intersection I could see the light was red and the camera flashed. In the picture you can see the bus in my right stopped at the light and my car in the intersection right behind the bus in front of me. Would the argument that the buses were blocking my sight be legitimate?

  45. I received a red light violation on 1/15 in Oakland at Northgate and 27th. The red time in the image is 0.13 seconds. What do you think the odds are of being offered a lowered fine and traffic school? I am fine paying my penalties and taking the traffic school to remove the point from my record, but $400+ is a lot of money for me.

  46. Anthony I am going to give you my opinion. I am a civilian like you so take it for what it is worth. You apparently proceeded into an intersection without having a clear view of the traffic light. Your view was impeded, according to you, for the several seconds it took for the light to go from green to yellow to red. I think a judge would find that hard to believe and even if he did believe it, he would find you at fault for proceeding into an intersection when you had no idea what color the light was, and it was in fact already red when you started through. If you cant see the light you should not be entering the intersection. I recommend you show up at the arraignment and take the deal that knocks $205 off the fine and keeps the point off your license. If you have not had a moving violation within the past 18 months then you are eligible for that deal. See my recent posts for more details.

  47. btw from what i have read here the red light camera is not triggered if you are going less than 15 mph. so slow down at those red light intersections!,,

  48. Hi- My car was broken into the same day the red light ticket was issued. It was taken on a joy ride and I received a ticket in the mail. I submitted a police report- do you think this is enough to get my case dropped? I submitted the Affadavit stating it wasn’t me but I still have to go to court since I can’t name the person driving my car. Please advise!


  49. Hello. I got a red light camera ticket. The ticket shows the violation date is Jan 30 2014. But I got the enforcement on February 18 but on the mail there are toe mailing date. One is 02/07/2014,the other one is 02/28/2014.And I got the Notice on February 21. I wonder can I dismiss the ticket based on CVC 40518 you mentioned? Thanks

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