RED LIGHT CAMERAS
LA County Documents & Info
Yes, this is the
webpage that explains why in LA County, paying
a red light camera ticket is
In 2018, Vote No on Sheila Kuehl
Do you live in Los Angeles
County? Was Zev Yaroslavsky your County
Supervisor? (Until Nov. 2014, he represented the
Third District, which includes the central and western
San Fernando Valley, Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice,
Beverly Hills, the City of West Hollywood, and part of
Sheila "Kuehl Cams" Kuehl, in 2007
During her career in the California
Legislature, Kuehl made three attempts to pass bills to allow
the use of automated speed enforcement (photo radar) in
She was also a vote to put an additional LA County-wide sales tax, going to Metro, on the Nov. 2016 ballot. (See Measure M on the Action/Legis page, for more about that tax.)
Kuehl will be up for re-election in Nov. 2018 and Nov. 2022.
LA County Docs Set # 2 - Countywide Info
In LA County, Paying a Red Light Camera Ticket is Voluntary!
The info here in Set # 2 is applicable to red light camera tickets from all cities in LA County, including those from the MTA. But only in LA County, and only if you haven't contacted the court about your ticket.
The LA County Superior Court Does Not Report Ignored Red Light Camera Tickets to the DMV!
(This information applies to any red light camera ticket issued by any city in LA County, no matter whether the ticket was signed by that city's police or by the LA County Sheriff. This information also applies to all tickets from the red light cameras near the Los Angeles County MTA busway and light rail lines.)
The public got its first hint - from a reliable source - about the ability to ignore camera tickets when in Sept. 2010 the LA Times published an article with the sub-headline:
"Officials say almost half of photo tickets are currently not paid, in part because the DMV has not been instructed [by the court] to place holds on licenses and registrations for those with outstanding [photo] citations."
Later, during the June 7, 2011 meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission there was this testimony by an LAPD deputy chief:
"There's no consequence for not
paying the ticket on a photo red light [in LA County].
"So there's no consequence [in
"If you receive a photo red
light ticket... what we have in Los Angeles County is
the courts have made the decision they will not refer
them to the DMV to put a hold on a license (if the
ticket is not paid)."
Warning: Contacting the
court (or its website lacourt.org, formerly
lasuperiorcourt.org) to check the status of your
ticket or to sign up for an extension lets them know
that you received the ticket. If you then decide
to do nothing further about the ticket and so do not
take care of it by the due date (or the extended due
date), it is possible that the court will report you
to the DMV.
Press Releases from the
Court, and More Articles
In early August 2011, Mary
Hearn, Director of Public Information for the LA
County Superior Court, provided the following
statement in response to questions from a reporter:
"Vehicle Code section
40509(c)(1) allows, but does not require, the Court
to send notice to the DMV of any person who fails to
appear in response to a notice subsequent to a
traffic violation captured by an automated traffic
enforcement system (i.e., red light camera system).
The DMV is subsequently authorized to place a hold
on the accused offenderís license, forcing the
person to resolve the ticket prior to renewing his
or her license.
"The Court supports a
collections effort [see "Will Your Credit Rating be
Dinged?," below] whose results and efficiency are a
model for the California courts.
However, that collections policy has, for many
years, not included the proposed notification to
DMV. In creating and administering this collections
effort, the Courtís policies are informed both by
the need to follow through on the fines issued, and
by the need to do so in a fair and just manner.
"In the case of red-light camera
enforcement, experience suggests that issuing a
driverís license hold on the basis of a red-light
enforcement ticket could result in an unfair result
where the owner of the vehicle is denied the ability
to renew his or her license, even though that person
was not the driver of the vehicle at the time the
camera captured a person going through a red light.
"A failure to appear on a
red-light traffic citation per notification from the
Court results in penalties in addition to the
original fine and the matter will be referred to a
collection agency [see
"Will Your Credit Rating be Dinged?," below]
if not resolved in the time allotted to do so.
"Questions related to credit
scores [see "Will Your Credit
Rating be Dinged?," below] and
insurance premiums should be directed to those
"We are not aware of any judicial officer ordering or authorizing GC Services to garnish wages or other income, attaching bank accounts, or filing liens.
judicial officers must balance their responsibility
for enforcing the law with their responsibility to
protect the public from abuse of those laws."
2013 online comment found on the Sep. 8, 2011 LA
ďMore and more people are figuring out that they will not be punished if they refuse to pay the violation fine, let alone have to show up in court at all." "Because the driver who was caught by a camera running a red light did not sign anything promising to appear in court, we have no legal recourse to issue a warrant for their arrest. The citation then gets handed over to a collection agency [see "Will Your Credit Rating be Dinged?," below], but even then after they mail a couple letters and make a couple annoying phone calls, they cannot force the violator to pay the fine.Ē
On Mar. 28, 2012 another LA Weekly article (archived copy) provided important details about ignoring tickets from cities in LA County, including this:
If you end up in traffic court for some other violation, and the judge asks you about that red-light skeleton in your closet, the same ignore-at-all-costs rule applies. "If you then acknowledge, 'I thought those were being dismissed,' you are now under the jurisdiction of the court," says [Attorney Sherman] Ellison.
Here is the proper response from a motorist:
New caption by highwayrobbery.net. The original illustration by Dzack & Gaby is at http://destasdeblagues.d.e.pic.centerblog.net/16124dd0.jpg and a version in English is at http://imgur.com/gallery/fZ6QR
I've not actually heard from anyone who reported that during a traffic stop the officer brought up the motorist's ignored LA County red light camera ticket, so the advice given in this cartoon is for "just in case things change."
Or, if it comes up in court.
As of Dec. 2014 the Mar. 2012 article had 76 comments.
(In early 2015 the Weekly changed to a new commenting system, and all old comments were lost.)
Jan. 2014 Daily News
Jan. 2014 Interview of WeHo Sheriff
Jan. 2014 LA Weekly, headlined: "Yes You Can Still Ignore That Red Light Camera Ticket"
As of Dec. 2014 the Jan. 2014 LA Weekly article had 209 comments.
(In early 2015 the Weekly changed to a new commenting system, and all old comments were lost.)
Oct. 2015 NBC-TV (archived copy)
This example graph, by highwayrobbery.net, covers May 2010 to Oct. 2014. The lowest point was Aug. 2011. For the very latest graph, click on Revenue Spreadsheet, below.
During the Summer of 2011, revenue was off by about
Some cities responded by issuing more tickets.
The LA County cities of Baldwin Park, Commerce,
Covina, Culver City, Hawthorne, Lynwood, Santa
Clarita, South Gate, Walnut and West Hollywood
increased ticketing by 50% or more. By early
2012, revenue had rebounded for many cities in the
County. To see the actual numbers, see this
city-by-city and month-by-month...
Source documents for the Revenue
An example of the LA Court's Civil Assessment Notice
No ! You may receive one or two letters
(example below) from the LA County court's
collection agency, GC Services, but your ignored
ticket will not show up on your credit report.
"Under rules that
took effect last week,
government agencies may no longer lower a
motorist's credit score over unpaid
traffic tickets or parking citations. The three
major credit reporting
agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion
agreed to the new policy in a legal
settlement with thirty-one state attorneys
general last year."
If you contact the court ( or
its website lacourt.org, formerly lasuperiorcourt.org
) and check your ticket status or sign up for an
extension or an arraignment, that acknowledges that
you received the mailed ticket. If you then
decide to do nothing further about the ticket and so
do not take care of it by the due date (or the
extended due date), it is possible that the court
could report you to the DMV. I do not know for
It is OK to go on cite-web.com, photonotice.com, violationinfo.com or gatso.com, to view the photos/video of the violation - those photo viewing sites are run by the camera companies, not the court.
If the ticket was addressed to someone else in your family or household (your parent, your sibling, your child, etc.) and you and they have agreed to ignore it, make sure that whoever opens that person's postal mail knows that they are to consult with you before responding to any of the threatening letters that will come from the court and its collection agency. (Doing something as basic as looking around on the court's website, or phoning the court or the collection agency, lets the court know that you received the mailed ticket and could cause the court to tell the DMV that you ignored it.)
Do You Pay, or Not?
Plus, were the court to change its mind, the most you
would have to pay is $300 extra. And there could
even be an amnesty, like the one that began in 2015 (see
Whom to Believe?
How Long Will This Last?
How Many People are Ignoring their Tickets?
Some lawyers and most of the $99 ticket fixing companies will advise you not to ignore these tickets in LA County. Or, they may fail to tell you that there's the option to ignore. Why? The lawyer may be concerned that you will blame him if you ignore the ticket and then for some reason the court decides to start reporting ignored ticket to the DMV.
And the ticket fixing companies just want your $99.
It has been reported that staff in the office of a local councilman, and a reporter for one of the local daily newspapers, have been advising callers and readers that tickets from the red light cameras near the MTA/Metro busways and light rail cannot be ignored - the suggestion being that somehow, MTA/Metro tickets are stronger than those issued by the other agencies and cities in the County.
The best indicator that their advice is incorrect is that in 2012 the MTA asked a state legislator to carry a bill which would have required the courts to issue bench warrants on ignored MTA/Metro tickets.
MTA's official reports of the percentage of tickets paid (available on the MTA Docs page) show why they were so concerned.
As of Dec. 2007, 75% of the (year-old) Orange Line tickets issued in Dec. 2006 had been paid, while
as of Dec. 2013 only 21% of the tickets issued in Dec. 2012 had been paid.
MTA Staff Report Discussing the Bill
The 2012 bill did not pass, but then in the 2014 session there was a new bill which could have been amended to require warrants. Had it passed (it did not), it would have gone into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.
Now in 2017 there is another bill, SB 185, which - if it passes - could change the rules beginning on Jan. 1, 2018.
This table, part of a 2015 report critical of California's traffic courts, shows that beginning in 2011, something reduced the number of license suspensions. Part of the reduction may be because of the LA County court's policy to not report ignored red light camera tickets to the DMV.
From "Not Just a Ferguson Problem - How Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California"
the LA court someday change its policy, and begin
pursuing the old red light camera tickets that have
been ignored? About 1/3 of all camera tickets
are ignored, so there's so many that it would be
impractical for the court to pursue them. They don't
have enough parking, clerks, judges, or
courtrooms. And, they have higher priorities,
like dealing with crooked politicians, robbers, and
murderers. The closest the courts get to
pursuing old tickets is that every few years they do a
statewide amnesty, offering a discount to people who
want to pay off their old tickets. See
you are having trouble figuring out which city issued
your ticket, read the Disambiguation
section, at the bottom of the Camera Towns page.
Docs Set # 3
There may be some more information posted in the next few weeks. Mark your calendar to remind you to come back here and look!
RED LIGHT CAMERAS