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

February 10, 2010 |  4:33 pm

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