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Steve Lopez: Are you ticked off by a traffic ticket?


http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4150cbe970b-piHave you gotten a traffic ticket lately?

If so, did you choke when you saw the fee?

Traffic camera tickets, issued when you're caught on video running a red light, used to cost a few hundred dollars. But in the last couple of years, some are as high as $500-$600, says Steve Miller of Ticketbust.com, which tries to knock down the fees or get tickets dismissed altogether.

"Business is booming," said Miller, who told me that Californians are also ticked off about speeding ticket fines that run as high as several hundred dollars. "In the last two years, we've seen over a 100% increase in business each year."

Look, if someone's blowing red lights or barreling down a highway 90 miles an hour with a phone to the ear, I don't have much sympathy. But for questionable or relatively minor infractions, working folks are being hammered by fee increases imposed to fill budget gaps. Is it fair to charge someone half a month's rent, or the cost of a month's supply of food, for a slow-rolling turn as a light goes from yellow to red?

"They're dinging every single person then can," said Susan Novacoski, a registered nurse who opened her mail one day in November to find that she'd been hit with a $556 fee for allegedly running a red light in Loma Linda.

Novacoski didn't recall running a light, but didn't want to have to lose a day of work proving it. As a widow with a teenage daughter and a fulltime job at "a short-staffed hospital," she said, "I do not have a lot of time to play Perry Mason." She reluctantly decided to pay $219 to Ticketbust.com to handle the ticket, only to find a few days later that the ticket had been dismissed because of technical problems with the video camera ticketing system.

In fact, Loma Linda has since gotten rid of all its cameras because of complaints by citizens. Novacoski said that didn't do her any good. She's still out $219 for a violation she claims she didn't commit, and she struck out after wasting hours trying to get Loma Linda to cover that cost or at least give her an apology.

Do you have a horror story of your own?

If so, court is in session.

--Steve Lopez

Photo: An intersection in Costa Mesa. Credit: Marc Martin / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (60)

What part of "Stop on Red" do not these people understand? At first it is just a roll, then a little faster, then a collision. Just rolling a red light or stop sign is a a sign of lousy driving habits. Stop, count three, then go. It is pretty simple. I do not have any sympathy for those little violations either, they are symptoms that you are probably inattentive, or do not understand traffic safety. In any case, they are a hazard.

Got a $565 "rolling a red light" camera bill months ago. In the middle of a pack of five cars.

Very simple solution- avoid purchases or hiring individuals from the cities involved and tell them why. They're the ones not footing the bill for their own city's operation.

Baldwin Park in my case. Gas Company, In-N-Out Burger, UPS... avoid the lot of them whenever possible.

Eventually their elected officials will get it.

Business is business.

I work for a large organization utilizing hundreds of vehicles and one of my tasks is to review the red light tickets mailed to us and get them to the appropriate individual for payment.

These tickets are all reviewed by a third party company based in Scottsdale. (yes LA really does do business with Arizona) Unless the ticket is absolutely legitimate they do not get sent out. If there is any question it is tossed out. The average is about 75% get sent.

When you receive one of these tickets in the mail it will include the photos and most times a link to a video where you can observe yourself committing the infraction.

Fact of the matter is red means stop! It does not mean roll through if nobody is coming, it does not mean go ahead and make a right turn it means STOP.

Are these tickets expensive? You bet! Will it get your attention and make you think twice next time? Absolutely! I think the desired effect is there.

These tickets represent more abuses by officials who are charged with managing cities in a responsible manner, and not to abuse citizens for monetary gain. This is not dissimilar to the activities in the city of Bell. There needs to be a referendum on the state ballot to make red light cameras illegal state-wide, and to stop these individuals in their tracks.

These traffic fines, which are among the highest traffic fines in the world, are tax increases which politicians imposed to subsidize the salaries of California cops, which are the very highest in the world. The whole thing is part of the California politician/public safety employee scam that is destroying our state.

Beware of legal highway robberies on highways.

I have had the same unwarranted photo ticket without even knowing it, until I had the bomb shell fall on me two weeks later, summon in the mail.
I did not go through a red light, I SAFELY made a right turn on red.

Hello Steve,

I just wanted to point out for your article the difference in prices for the very same ticket from state to state. I was recently home in Boulder Colorado, and learned that running a red light incurs a ticket of 40 dollars, while the same driving infraction here in Los Angeles costs almost 500 dollars. I was told while I was in Boulder that the system pays for itself and produces the results they want at those prices. So my question is why are the tickets in L.A. ten times the amount of a ticket there?


West L.A.

You neglected to mention...these red light cameras are not "real" tickets.

The cameras are not cops or even employed by the city/county or whatever jurisdiction. No, these cameras are operated by private FOR PROFIT companies.

That's right! Now your local jurisdiction does get a cut, however...it's all about the money and not safety as some people would have you believe - statistics show that red light cameras are responsible for MORE accidents (mostly rear-enders) where people can and do get hurt.

If you get zapped by one of these cameras, talk to an attorney asap. The tickets are fairly easy to beat. For one, ask the judge for your constitutional right to question your accuser. What, the camera can't appear in court and be interrogated? DISMISSED!

I learned a long time ago to fight every traffic ticket.

I learned to do it right, read the section you were cited for, does it fit what you did? Many times it does not...you win

I went to traffic court and saw what worked.

Police make mistakes!

Pictures, pictures, pictures. I got a ticket for a right turn on a red light in front of a pedestrian with a baby stroller, while they were standing in the crosswalk. Pictures showed sidewalk construction forcing them onto the street. Cop couldn't testify about the construction...I win.

I learned that the "Basic Speed Law" allows you to go 50 in a 35 if it is reasonable under the conditions to do so.

I learned that most LAPD Traffic officers are lazy in that they find a spot where all they have to do is sit and the fish come to them. And they are embarrassed to come to court and testify to their laziness. Call there Supr. up and let them know that the cops under their control are just sitting around instead of patrolling. Last year there were 3 motorcylce police picking off "speeders" coming down Wilbur off the 118. Totally safe doing 50 but they were giving out tickets by the hundreds. Got one and called their superior about it, they disappeared the next day and my officer didn't show up in court...I win


With these huge fines the City has made it worth your time to fight ALL your tickets. If nothing else clog the courts.

The City through the LAPD are using the vehicle code as a revenue raiser not as a safe driving guide. Make them pay for it.

Fight every ticket even if your guilty!

PS Moved away from LA to Vancouver Island were the vehicle code is even more draconian, and my fellow Canadians accept it like sheep. Come on Americans, fight for your right to go 55 in a 35!!...safely

I got a ticket for a Hollywood turn in Irvine. I was shocked when I saw the fine........$570!!!!!! How are they able to do that???

I was on LaBrea, coming to Santa Monica Blvd. The car in front of me hit their brakes to make an abrupt right. I swerved around them to avoid slamming into their rear end. The light was GREEN. As I proceeded, the light went yellow, then red, before I could cross the intersection. The camera flashed. I was sent a 550.oo ticket a few days later. I am awaiting a court date. I refused to pay a ticket where the light is obviously rigged. It's a crime for our govenment to enaged in the extortion of their citzens.

Parking Violations. Kafka comes to mind.

I got a $204 jaywalking ticket.

I don't even own a car and they're getting me.

Shouldn't that be about a $20 ticket? It's 4x the amount of a parking ticket!

I had my elbow resting on my console with a small black wallet in hand when a motorcycle police officer pulled me over. When he walked up to my door, he said "saw you were holding your phone." I instantly breathed a sigh of relief and showed him it was my wallet I was holding. He pointed to my Blackberry in my cup holder and said "looks like you were holding your phone." He walked to his motorcycle and came back with a ticket. Said I could show up in court to plead the case if I wanted to. Didn't even ask to see my call log on my phone which I would have gladly showed him. I was speechless. I couldn't afford to take a day off of work so I ended up paying $156 plus a $10 surcharge to use the online bill pay with the LA Superior Courts website. Thanks Long Beach PD

This lady didn't have half a day to contest a $600 ticket, but had several hours to recover $200? And why is it the city's fault she decided to give a couple hundred dollars to the firm mentioned in the article (advertisement?) a few times?

One early morning I was heading to work along Alameda and 223rd in Carson to catch the 405. The arrow was green to make a right turn and the light above it was red for cars making a left. I made my right turn and proceeded towards the Freeway onramp, but made a stop at another light.

The CHP hit his lights as I pulled from the stop towards the Freeway. He said I blew through the intersection and I cut off a car. I was wondering what he was talking about because there was no one in front of me and I saw no one behind me. I mentioned to the officer if he was referring to the arrow at 223rd intersection.

Rather than go to court I paid the $560 for the ticket and went to traffic school. I know for a fact Cops have unwritten quotas to justify their existense, but they will never say.

The fees are crazy, even criminal. No way should the charges be this high but with the government we have, I am not surprised. I paid over $400.00 for my ticket, $64.00 for the court traffic school fee and $14.95 to Internet Traffic School.com to go to their school and remove my ticket for me. 8 hours of work at home but pretty painless.

If you think traffic tickets are outrageous, try getting a ticket for being in a park after hours!! I am 18 years old & I recieved a ticket for being in the park after hours. I didnt even know they could do that. All the parks gates were unlocked and open. The ticket I recieved was $400!!!!!! Ticket fees are ridiculous these days!!!

Thank you, Mr. Lopez, for finally calling out local traffic cops and
the CHP for their excessively "predatory" approach to issuing traffic
citations.. We all know that the state is having a financial crisis but,
seriously, why take it out of the hide of motorists..? I get it, we're easy
targets... but still must the fines be so excessive..? I've never seen so
many speed traps in the Los Angeles area ... CHP seems to be stalking L.A.
motorists for any minor slip up... Check the 170 FWY on any given
day (esp. near Sherman Way) or the 14 FWY (N) after the transition
off the 5 FWY... But the "photo enforced" intersections are absolutely
the worst... These beauties are privately owned and with the profit
motive at play, these things are going off for any slight movement. Please
investigate this further. It is a real problems. I don't believe that the
fines need to be so excessive or the practices so predatory...

that camera on rosecrance near costco lawndale is the bigest scam ever its timing is messed up for example the yellow is shorter and in the afternoon the sun shines on your eyes and the location of the camera is such that one can misse iy easily on top of that the cars making complet u slows the trafic

Adopt the Finnish model: base traffic ticket fines as a percentage of a person's income.

you can feel how its so obvious police are trying hard to justify their existence - gone are the days of "verbal warnings" , in other words, there is a presumption that its more predatorial on the part of the police and thats not healthy civic comity. it just makes one more cynical - but there are many motorists that deserve it but i wince when i seen people that look like decent folk going to work being pulled over and they are really not doing anything that bad. its like whatever seems easist to write up. its scary. there is all kinds of people cops can pull over and cite - like 8 out of ten motorcyclists - but its usually the more docile types that are stopped - why is that???

This is just the system finding a way to pay for itself. Want to see comedy? Spend a day in a traffic court.

I got pulled over right down the street from my house in Sherman Oaks. For not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign. On Christmas Eve. By two cops, no less, and when I made some comment like "Merry Christmas" when I got it one of the cops got all in my face about it-- his partner had to subdue him.

$540. More than I spent to buy my entire family gifts.

Those of you who voted for Villaraigosa and the losers on our city council, thank yourselves. This piece should be headlined what my blog item about it will be: "When Tax Dollars Are No Longer Enough."

Why aren't tax dollars enough? Here's just one example:


I don't know about you, but everyone I know has cut back in this tough economy. Everyone but the politicians, who are spending your tax dollars and mine like a Beverly Hills teenager with an unlimited Platinum Card.

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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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