California Red Light Camera

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A red light camera ticket in California could cost upwards of $500, so it’s important to know your options for fighting a citation. 
Red light cameras capture video and photo evidence of traffic violations at city intersections. Using these cameras can drastically reduce the rate of fatal accidents at intersections—but they’re not immune to fault. 
If you’ve received a red light camera ticket and suspect it’s a mistake, you need to know your options for challenging the citation.  
In California, the fines for running a red light are steep, but the process for fighting a red light camera ticket can be tricky. To help you protect yourself, car insurance comparison and broker app Jerry has compiled a guide to everything you need to know about red light cameras in California. 
Yes—according to section 21455.5 of the California Vehicle Code, photographic evidence from traffic enforcement systems like red light cameras is legal in California. Many major California cities use red light cameras, including: 
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Sacramento
  • Culver City
  • Bakersfield
  • Beverly Hills
  • Fremont
Check with your city government to see if red light cameras are in operation in your hometown. 

What should I do if I receive a red light camera ticket?

The minimum penalty for running a red light in California is $100. Add on approximately $400 in mandatory fees, and you could receive a ticket for $500 or more based on red light camera evidence. 
You have two options if you receive a red light camera ticket in California: you can pay the fine and move on, or you can try to fight it. Both approaches have advantages and drawbacks, so we’ll break each one down. 
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How to pay a red light camera ticket 

If you’d rather avoid the hassle of fighting the ticket, you can pay the fine online, by mail, or in person at the address listed on the ticket. If you want to pay the ticket but can’t afford the full amount, you can also arrange a court date to ask the judge for a payment plan that could allow you to pay for the ticket over time. 
You can also use the online fine reduction tool from the Judicial Branch of California to request a reduction of your traffic fine, an extension or payment plan, or the substitution of community service for the fine. 

How to fight a red light camera ticket

If you were not the driver or suspect that the photo was taken by accident, you can fight the ticket. Three common ways to fight a red light camera ticket are to: 
  • Request proof that the camera was functioning properly: If you can prove that the camera malfunctioned, you could get the ticket dismissed. 
  • Demonstrate that the images are not clear: California law states that law enforcement cannot issue a citation if the photo does not provide a clear image of both the driver and the license plate. 
  • Argue that you ran the red light in order to avoid greater harm: Sometimes it’s necessary to run a red light to prevent an accident. If you can prove that this was the case by calling witnesses to your defense, the judge may dismiss the ticket. 
Gather your evidence carefully and assemble witnesses if possible before trying to fight a red light camera ticket. If you can afford to hire an attorney, it could increase your chances of winning a dismissal. 

How does a red light camera work?

Red light cameras use the sensors in traffic lights to capture photo and video footage of cars that enter an intersection after the light has turned red. If you run a red light in front of one of these cameras, the device will record your license plate number along with the following information: 
  • Date and time of the incident 
  • Vehicle speed
  • Location
  • Amount of time since the light turned red
Most red light cameras are run by third-party companies, who will send the footage and data from the camera to law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement can then use the information to issue tickets to any driver who runs a red light, makes an illegal turn on red, or commits another traffic infraction in front of the camera. 
A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that red light cameras reduced fatal crashes at intersections in major cities by 14%. Because of this success rate, many states permit cities to install and use red light cameras for traffic enforcement.  

How to find affordable car insurance in California

If you’re convicted of running a red light in California, your insurance will go up. If that happens, it might be time to shop for a new insurance policy that gives you a better rate. 
Getting a ticket doesn’t necessarily doom you to permanently high insurance rates—not with an expert assistant like the Jerry app on your side! Download the app, answer a few questions, and you’ll have competitive quotes from 50+ top insurance companies within 45 seconds. 
Even if you’ve got points on your record, Jerry will find the lowest available rate and handle all the paperwork to get you switched over. Jerry users save an average of $879 a year on car insurance! 
“My past tickets were making it hard to find affordable insurance. With Jerry, I went from paying $450/month to $273/month. They took care of everything—such a relief!” —Josephine R.
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Watch out for tickets sent by email or phone—the California DMV only issues tickets through the mail. If you receive a ticket with any missing or suspicious information, call the court to confirm whether or not the ticket is legitimate.

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