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Motorists outraged at paying ‘voluntary’ red-light camera tickets

July 26, 2011 | 11:45 am

A red-light camera at La Brea Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard.

When Bob Brickman got a ticket generated by a traffic camera last fall for running a red light at the corner of Wilshire and Sepulveda boulevards, he spent months fighting it.

Finally, the 61-year-old Playa Vista resident gave up and decided to pay the $476 fine. On Tuesday, he regretted paying every penny.

City officials this week revealed a dirty little secret about red-light camera fines in L.A.: Offenders don't have to pay them.

Officials said that paying the fines was optional and the city had no legal power to force people to pay. 

The tickets are part of a "voluntary payment program," without sanctions for those who fail to submit fines, said Richard M. Tefank, executive director of the city's Board of Police Commissioners.

"The consequence is somebody calling you from one of these collection agencies and saying 'pay up.' And that's it," said committee member and Councilman Bill Rosendahl. "There's no real penalty in terms of your driver's license or any other consequences if you don't pay."

The revelation comes as the city considers dropping the controversial program, with the City Council voting on the matter as early as Wednesday.

But even if it does, it's no consolation for the tens of thousands who have dutifully paid their tickets.

"Now that makes me nuts," said Brickman, an unemployed alcohol and drug recovery counselor. "That makes me want to go get a refund, but I’ve been around long enough to know that’s not going to happen. It’s very frustrating to know that I was victimized by something that they think is not useful or a good idea … I could truly use that $476." 

Morgan Harvey was hit with sticker shock in May when she received a $480 red-light camera ticket for making an illegal right turn at Pico Boulevard and Bundy Drive. The marketing communication coordinator for a software company had been putting off paying the fine. Now she has no plans to.

“They said you can and if it was going to affect anything, I might, but if it’s not going to affect my credit or if I don’t have to go to court or have a boot on my car, then I won’t.”


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Photo: A red-light camera at La Brea Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. Credit: Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times