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Plan to cut L.A.'s red-light ticket fines presented

Tens of thousands of Los Angeles motorists could see reductions in red-light ticket fines -- now hovering at more than $500 with traffic school -- under an unusual proposal presented Wednesday at City Hall.

San Fernando Valley Councilman Dennis Zine introduced a motion to study the feasibility of taking the processing of the city’s red-light infractions, and possibly other traffic tickets, out of the hands of the county’s court system. Such a move could cut motorist fines, some of which have risen at three times the rate of inflation in recent years, and increase net revenue to the city, Zine said.

The tactic has been quietly adopted by a handful of California towns, but none the size of Los Angeles. The proposal could trigger a fight with the cash-strapped state, as well as judicial agencies, both of which would lose millions in revenue from Los Angeles' red-light tickets. Some have questioned the legality of such city-adjudicated ticket programs.

Red-light ticket revenues have grown in recent years as dozens of cities have turned to automated photo enforcement systems to monitor intersections around the clock. Los Angeles alone issues about 3,600 red-light violations a month through its camera systems. Most of those violations have been for rolling right turns. LAPD officials report that the city netted more than $6 million last year from the program after expenses were deducted.

Zine, a former Los Angeles traffic officer, has criticized the jump in red-light ticket costs, which are set by state and county agencies. The fines have become punitive, he has argued, particularly for families struggling in the economic downturn. He said the city receives only about a third of the total fines levied for the red-light tickets its officers issue, while on patrol or via cameras.

If his proposal moves forward, the city would conduct its own administrative hearings on red-light tickets, Zine said. Drivers would still have points against them for the violations reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles, he said. The proposal was sent to the council’s Public Safety and Budget committees.

-- Rich Connell 

Times' interactive graphic credit: Raoul Rañoa

Comments () | Archives (52)

Holla-lula!!! Finally, real action on the part of our elected officials!! After all, this is the great experiment, and it takes pioneers like Mr. Zine to stand up for US all!!


Yes! Do it! They abused their power, now take it away from them.

I hope this would not give people the idea that they can be negligent and ignore traffic laws just because the fines for their offenses will be more affordable.

Rolling Right turns? Give me a break. I thought they called it a California stop back in the day. Cities should quit harassing its residents. Can't we all get along? $500 ticket? The corporations have won. Of course they should lower them. Remember when it used to be a $50 ticket. Why has the U.S.A. become so corporate welfare fascist with the government giving 66% to the private corporations. We need a modern day Robin Hood for the people against the corpies... Hmm, zombie cash corps... ugh.

Did you notice how there's no mention in this story of the real cost of a $500 ticket or how much it would cost under this proposal? Of course not. That might stir up the citizenry who will soon find out it would have little effect on their out of pocket costs and simply transfer collected fines from the courts that receive them now to the city's general fund.

Let's first ask about the true purpose of these cameras. Will they be installed in wealthy or poor neighborhoods? Is the goal to collect revenue or improve safety? (wink wink) The LA Times needs to study placement of red light cameras to see if they will be installed disproportionately in areas where residents can afford to pay the outrageous fines as well as avoiding areas where this system might identify illegal aliens.

Councilman Zine is an idiot and an enemy of the city of Los Angeles. He cries that fines for running red lights are "punitive," but that is precisely the point. Pay attention, Zine: running a red light often kills people. Unlike this nifty graphic's representation, many people run red lights looking to turn and "beat" oncoming traffic. If you walk or try to use a crosswalk, you are taking your life in your hands with these drives. Every signal should be photo-patrolled. At the intersection of Fountain and LaBrea they turned off the cameras, and not too long afterwards an elderly couple were struck and killed in the crosswalk, by someone not stopping on a red light. People die, Zine, and if it takes $500 fines to keep innocent people from being killed by irresponsible idiots, then so be it.

When the argument is made for why these cameras are needed, the argument always seems to hinge on it being for safety reasons, to catch those who speed straight on through after the yellow turns red. But in reality, "Most of those violations have been for rolling right turns. " Yup, the cars going 3 MPH on right turns are the ones getting the tickets.

Another hidden TAX is all this is.

Good for Dennis Zine and shame on those who allowed and are responsible for the heavy fines. A fine $446-$515 for a low income person or someone receiving a small social security check is unconscionable. That is most of their check. Do the people responsible for these fines think what this means to a lower income person? Obviously not. To make that fine people will have to borrow, or go behind on the rent and food - that means children will go without. Or the fine will be so unaffordable to many that it won't get paid and then that fine will be doubled. Then the person will lose their car and without a car you can't go to work, etc. If a law is broken then I agree there should be a fine - but not in these amounts. I don't think these fines are even imposed on big time criminals. As a matter of fact a fine should be commensurate with income - especially when it comes to politicians. How would they like 50-75% of their check gone to pay a fine? I hope there's lots of protesting regarding these outrageous fines.

What next? Administrative review of robberies and murders?

Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"? And the protection of the courts from the tyranny of the executive and legislative branches?

If the City of LA wants to make money off red light cameras but it does not want to provide its citizens with the protections of the Justice System (whatever shreds may be left) then it might as well just send people the bill for "thinking" of running the light, huh? Perhaps just charge people but don't even think of sending a report to the DMV because an attorney should be able to fix that.

But, Oh No! An attorney will cost 1500 bucks for most people so only those that can afford the 1500 bucks will get their Pyrrhic Victory. As always, it costs money, and yet more money, to buy your justice in this country. And with politicians such as these, who flippantly ignore the protections of the law, the average citizen is yet far more removed from being treated with respect and justice.

Perhaps the City of LA might work on fixing its potholes and its traffic instead. Perhaps that way folks may not run so many red lights.

The bottom line is the travesty of "Law Enforcement" when the authorities turn to "Safety" as a means of generating revenue. This is no longer a public service but just another tax, plain and simple.

And moving this from the Courts to an efficient City Run administrative system (think: efficient collection of fines) all but ensures that only the rich will get justice. The rest will just pay the City money with far less safeguards... and oh! faster and more efficiently.

I'm glad I don't live in the City of LA. What a bunch of fascists.

Danger is upon us. Arnold recently said he wants to change the current red light cameras to radar-equipped speed cameras. This is dangerous because in Arizona a study recently released shows that accidents have gone up by 35% within one mile of speed cameras placed on highways! Rather than debating the fee reduction we should be debating the greater issue here, whether or not they should even exist to begin with!

how much do the manufacturers of thr red light cameras make? that's what i would lik to know

Kudos to San Fernando Valley Councelman Dennis Zine for introducing a motion intended to review the processing of city's red-light infractions. I don't believe that the average citizen of Los Angeles can and or will tolerate $500.00 fines for red light infractions.


Bill Pavelic

According to the vehicle code, if you are ANYWHERE in the intersection when the light turns red, that is running a red light. By that definition, it is no longer a safety issue and is simply a revenue generation law. Tell me how if I am more than halfway across the intersection when the light turns red, that I am endangering anyone. Even at 15 miles an hour, that is less than a quarter second of travel which no one in the cross street can start up fast enough when their light turns green. Nor can anyone step off the curb fast enough to be a problem.
Yet based on complaints, few light runners knew that anywhere in the intersection was a violation. They assumed common sense was that entering or being less than halfway was a violation.
I am now avoiding parts of Pasadena and no longer make right turns on red at photo enforced intersections. Too many said they stopped and then proceeded and were charged with a rolling right.
When people no longer patronize businesses in the areas, maybe someone will complain.
Sit at Union and Lake in Pasadena in the evening and see how often it flashes and you will be amazed how few "real violations" you will observe.

Why cut the fine? This is a purely voluntary $500. You don't want a ticket, don't roll through or run through a light or stop sign. Very easy.

Zine thinks fines are punative? Aren't fines supposed to be punitive? Aren't fines intended to punish people for breaking the law? Does Zine know what punitive means? Did Zine really even say that? (I notice it's not in quotes.) Should we lower the fines on the single most dangerous practice common among LA drivers, so much so that it has a nickname in other states (the "California stop")? Should we punish less those who commit the traffic violation responsible for the most fatal accidents in Albuquerque, as well as the number one cause of pedestrian fatalities? Should we really go easy on people whose negligence is costing lives? Zine's valley constituents are, as most who drive in that area can tell you, some of the worst offenders of not only traffic lights but also cell phone use while driving. They are also, not surprisingly, the noisiest about having these fines reduced or these practices eliminated. If LA drivers are not going to be responsible drivers, then they should have to pay for it.

As someone who walks rather than drives when I can, I don't consider rolling right turns by cars a harmless infraction as implied by this posting. Cars are supposed to stop before the limit line both to keep them from cross traffic but also to keep them from running over pedestrians or from pushing pedestrian traffic into oncoming vehicular traffic. In addition, despite the increasingly hefty fines, I see more cars running the red in the traditional sense than I did 10 years ago. That's a major safety hazard. It's a whole new experience trying to turn left these days.

There is a very easy way to avoid a ticket in this case-- don't run the red light.

Uh, Mr.Zine, the fines are SUPPOSED to be punitive. LA drivers already combine incompetence with arrogance, and kill and maim innocents daily. Hit and run has become the city's hobby, and you want to lighten the punishment? It's already hard enough to walk across any busy street here. There are several accidents a week within earshot of my home off Wilshire Boulevard. What are you thinking?

Senate Bill 949, filed last week, will prohibit exactly what Zine proposes. Because we don't want different rules in every city we drive into.

The red light cameras are not going away, and the governor wants speeding ticket cams, which will up the number of tickets five-fold to one per year per family.

To cope, learn about Snitch Tickets, fake/phishing red light camera tickets sent out by the police in an effort to fool the registered owner into ID'ing the actual driver of the car. (He doesn't have to!) Local cities using this "social engineering" tactic are Bakersfield, Corona, Garden Grove, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Laguna Woods, Los Alamitos, Loma Linda, Maywood, Moreno Valley, Riverside, Santa Ana, Santa Clarita, South Gate, and Victorville.) Snitch tickets have not been filed with the court, so they don't say "Notice to Appear," don't have the court's address and phone # on them, and usually say, on the back (in small letters), "Do not contact the court about this notice." Since they have not been filed with the court, they have zero legal weight. You can ignore a Snitch Ticket. If in doubt, Google the term.

In the future the only people who will be able to drive will be the rich, the undocumented/uninsured/criminal element with "throw away" cars, and the 1 million insiders who have "protected plates." If you don't know what that is, Google the term, plus "California."

I sure hope that this doesn't happen! I come from AZ where they are all over, even on the freeways. Once people see them they slam on their brakes which causes wrecks and traffic jams. You also feel that you are constantly being watched. This was one of the major perks I loved about California when I moved here, and I hope that it remains that way. We need to get these things as far away from this state as we can!

Funny how every time something is posted here about bicyclists and giving them the right to the road that by law they are allow to ride on, people start ranting and raving about the cyclists that blow through red lights, BUT here we have a perfect example of car drivers breaking the law (running a red light) and somehow feeling justified in arguing that they shouldn't have to pay the full penalty of the law, nevermind that running red lights can have deadly consequence when you're in a ton or multi-ton vehicle barreling through an intersection (one of the most common places for bicycle accident to occur). Maybe the city should up the fine and actually do a better job of either catching people using their cell phones against their faces while driving or allow innocent pedestrians, bicyclists and other car drivers to REPORT people when they violate that law. A large percentage of the time that I am almost hit by a car when walking or biking, the person has a phone plastered to their face and there's pretty much nothing I can do about it.

Maybe, instead of worrying about "families struggling", he should worry about innocent drivers involved in accidents caused by person who cannot drive. Red lights mean STOP. Period. We need speed cameras on the freeways and city streets too.

Me again. Under "Pc13521" it is illegal to charge such fees (penality assesment of 170 percent). First of all you never signed a promise to appear with camera enforced or parking tickets. Infractions are not a criminal offence. It is an infraction of the law, the law clearly states. But fighting could be a learning curve. Not to forget to mention time consumming. But rewarding once you win in court. Oh, BY the way, parking tickets are in violation of the rules that credit cards and bill collectors must abide by. Fair notice holds lots of weight if used correctly. I hope the many readers of L.A.Times picks this up. Happy motoring.

link to Police Officers Standard Training. Read and enjoy. http://www.post.ca.gov/

I got a better Idea. HOW ABOUT just take them down. THIS WAS NOT DONE FOR SAFETY. (Despite the city about to do "their own report" on the matter.

The legality problem should worry them. It isn't legal. Go ask some of the towns that have refunded RLC fines for the "cost neutrality" provision which violates state law according to more than one appelate court ruling.

This is nothing more than LA trying to use RLC for money. The fact that they now want to usrp the law to keep more of the cash for themseleves is just dispicable!

The simple solution is if you don't want to pay the fines, don't break the laws. It's funny how some people attack these cameras and complain about them for infractions that would have failed them on a driver's test when they first got their license.

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